Elaine Parks, (standing), VisAbility Art Lab program director, works closely with Art Lab Artists

VisAbility Art Lab is a supported studio art program for emerging adult artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities seeking to launch a successful career in the arts. Launched in 2015 in partnership with Madison House Autism Foundation (MHAF), the Lab provides artists with the components needed for them to move forward with their craft – a studio where they can create art, exhibition and sale opportunities at VisArts and other galleries and art shows throughout the DMV, and workforce development and life skills training to forge a deeper and meaningful connection in the community. Our goal is to provide program participants with the tools needed for them to be productive and self-sustaining members of the community with art as their means of support.

In the years since its founding, the program has grown from four students to 27, all of whom have aged out of receiving state and federal supports. While MHAF is no longer a program partner, VisArts has remained committed to and provides support for the program as part of its ongoing commitment to ensure that all artists of all abilities have access to resources, are constantly encouraged to express their own creative vision, and learn workforce and life skills.

The Program

The studio is open for full-day or half-day sessions. Participants create art at their own pace and in the medium of their choice including ceramics. glass, digital art, painting, drawing, and sculpture. VisArts provides all art supplies and artists create work and master new techniques with the encouragement and guidance of VisArts’ studio artists and other arts professionals. Artists also learn workforce development and life skills including developing portfolios of their work, writing artist bios and statements, and how market and price their pieces. Like all professional artists. VisAbilty Art Lab participants receive payment when their work is sold and design and licensing fees from merchandise.

Program Leadership

The VisAbility Art Lab is led by Program Director Elaine Parks who has been creating art for as long as she can remember. Elaine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from American University and a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from George Washington University. She has worked with adults and children in a variety of settings throughout her career. Elaine has been with the Lab since its launch in 2015.