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SLC Arts offering Massena classes for people with special needs

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MASSENA - A program that offers art classes in Potsdam for people with developmental disabilities is expanding into the Massena community this month.

The program, offered by Tracy Wanamaker, a board-certified music therapist, begins Tuesday at the Massena Community Center, 61 Beach St. Ms. Wanamaker has been teaching music and art exploration workshops for teens and adults with special needs for several years at SLC Arts in Potsdam, and this is the first time the classes have been offered in Massena. They are also expanding to Gouverneur.

“We’ve been running this program for a little over three years here in Potsdam. This January will be the first time we’ve done outside of Potsdam. When we were looking for areas where there was a need for this program by a lot of service providers, Massena kept coming up. Looking at that, we started doing our own sort of questioning around and asking questions We felt really good about running a program once a month in Massena,” SLC Arts Executive Director Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton said.

The spring semester classes, which will meet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 11, April 8 and May 6 at the Massena Community Center, are designed for teens and adults with special needs in the Massena area. It helps with therapy, building social skills and increasing motor and communication skills.

“Some of them are wheelchair-bound. Some are more higher functioning. The program Tracy Wanamaker provides is really interactive and engaging. There’s not many programs (like this). This is the only sort of music and art therapy program,” Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said.

“Tracy’s great. She’s a really sought after therapist. She’s done a really great job building this. We’re very excited about getting something going in Massena. We’ve done some things in Massena before for different programs, working with different art groups, and this seemed like a natural fit,” she said.

The 2014 Special Arts program is supported in part by grand funding from the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the state Council on the Arts - Special Arts Services.

“We got a grant from them to expand the program. That’s why we’re able to expand to Massena and Gouverneur,” Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said.

Preregistration is required by contacting SLC Arts at 265-6860 or visiting www.slcartscouncil.org. Students can register for as many or as few classes in the series as they are available to attend.

The cost is $10 per class, but she said scholarships are available based on financial need. A sliding payment scale can be found on the SLC Arts website.

“It’s more important for us to teach to the needs of the population. This is definitely not a money-maker,” she said.

Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said they hope to see enough success that the program will be able to grow in Massena.

“We hope it will be able to grow to every other week, a twice-a-month session which is how they run here in Potsdam. We’ll start slow and see how the scheduling works,” she said.

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