WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students from JSDD’s (Jewish Services for the Developmentally Disabled) WAE Center showcased their artwork at The West Orange Arts Council’s first art show of the year.  Entitled “I Did It My WAE,” this collection of artwork will be on display until Feb. 26.

JSDD's WAE (Wellness, Art & Enrichment) Center is a nonprofit organization and alternative learning center for individuals with special needs. Here, staff members allow students to learn, create, express themselves, and develop meaningful relationships despite any limitations they may have. JSDD's WAE Center offers programs in writing, poetry, painting, film, and music.

According to the press release issued by JSDD, “On display is the work of over 20 individual artists, working out of the WAE Center Art Studio in West Orange. Each artist represented uses his/her own vision to create an artistic reflection for this unique show. The West Orange Arts Center exhibit focuses on a range of two-dimensional artwork encompassing drawing, painting, photography and digital art.”

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Students posed for pictures with their artwork and enjoyed refreshments with their family on opening night of the art show.

Marilynn Schneider, Director of JSDD’s WEI Center explained the importance of programs like this in the community.

“At WEI we focus on creating an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance where everyone is expected to be respected,” she said.

She went on to explain that it is very important for staff members to not focus on any disabilities the students may have but, instead focus on how they express themselves as an artist. If a student cannot use their hands, instructors will spend time speaking to the student and asking questions to be sure they understand what they wish to convey in their art.

“We focus on neutrality, meaning we never impose our own ideas onto the students,” said Schneider. “The whole idea is self expression.”

The West Orange Arts Center, located at 551 Valley Road, offers a full schedule of art exhibits throughout the year, according to Lisa Suss of the West Orange Arts Council. The center also offers a variety of art workshops and other free events for the community to take part in.