Students at the Foundation School in Largo can’t always communicate their feelings with words, but a special workshop with a local artist allowed them to express themselves through a meticulous artistic process that is almost 200 years old.
The Foundation School, with campuses in Largo and Gaithersburg, is a nonprofit school for children with emotional disabilities. The Largo campus received a $2,000 grant from the Target Foundation to host wildlife artist Carmelo Ciancio for a special two-day session on scratchboard, a 19th century art form that involves scratching black film off a board to create an image.
Ellen Robinson, the art teacher at the school, said art often becomes a type of therapy for her students.
“The [students] have had some kind of crisis in their lives or they were born with some kind of crisis,” she said. “The art sort of calms them down.”
Ciancio, a former Laurel resident who now lives in Huntingtown, specializes in scratchboard and developed a color version of scratchboard that he uses to create wildlife portraits.
“It was amazing how well [the students] were all able to not only grasp the concept, but get something done within that allotted time,” Ciancio said.
Ciancio said the students responded positively to the art medium and created images of themselves or wildlife.
“Although there were [behavioral] flare-ups, the [students] kind of lost themselves into what they were doing with the artwork,” he said. “I think they subconsciously realized that, for an hour or two, they could kind of forget what’s going on and what they have to do. It’s almost like a sense of self-hypnosis, you get so lost in the process that time kind of warps.”
Some of the student scratchboard pieces were auctioned March 27 at a fundraiser for the Foundation Schools in College Park, and together with other student art pieces raised more than $4,000, said Kelli Kunert, communications director for Foundation Schools.
John Meeks, founder of the Foundation Schools, said he planned to buy some student artwork, but that he was running out of space to hang the pieces.
“I’ve got a wall full of [student artwork],” he said. “Every year, the artwork gets better. The students who have been blocked in other ways can [speak through] graphics, and it is just a wonderful route of communication.”