In early June, Studio Arts Associate Professor Saeri Cho Dobson presented an exhibition at New Horizons, an organization for individuals with special needs, culminating her 2016-17 Artist-in-Residence grant from the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs. The exhibition featured a process of collaborative and mentoring work between Dobson and the individuals served by New Horizons, creating art that truly captures the unique personalities and abilities.
The year-long grant allowed Dobson to work in depth with these artists, discovering their personalities and individual passions. “I tried to teach them with my lesson plans at the beginning, but soon I realized a different approach was needed,” said Dobson. “I stopped and instead started to observe them to discover their passions. Each individual there is uniquely different. Spending time with them on a weekly basis was helpful and allowed us to connect on a deeper level.”
New Horizons serves as a place where individuals with intellectual disabilities come and are empowered to fulfill their aspirations. Through partnerships, community education, and advocacy, New Horizons creates a brighter future in which their clients are accepted by, participate in, and add value to the community. The organization, which is located in the San Fernando Valley, hosts about 170 adults, ranging from 25 to 70 years old.
The experience was indeed rewarding for the participants, and this is translated through the simplicity and beauty of their work. Dobson recognized the importance of respecting each person as an artist, saying “It’s easy to think that these individuals are not capable of doing things, or to get discouraged, or give them an easy routine task to finish the job.”
Dobson teaches graphic design at LMU, with a focus on using design as a path to social justice. Her artistic pursuit, justice and moral responsibility to educate the whole person, are hallmarks of her teaching philosophy, and contributed to her being awarded this grant. Her experimental art and design have been exhibited in galleries in New Zealand, Mexico, Seoul, Korea; Oxnard and Los Angeles, California. Dobson holds a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design in New York, and a MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
Above is a slideshow of the work presented at the June 1 exhibition at New Horizons, featuring a collection of work both by Dobson and her students.