Sixteen Conway Human Development Center residents worked alongside University of Central Arkansas students to create art projects to help showcase their individual personalities.

Cathy Acre, who works with the facility’s occupational therapy (OT) department, said the university students devised the art project while working to find a community project.

Students wrapping up their second year of OT education worked alongside eight youth and eight adults at CHDC to encourage them to socialize and facilitate an environment that allowed the residents to express their feelings.

Through the socialization project, student Megan Phillips said residents, both younger and older, were able to mingle together and visit with one another.

“We wanted them to be able to think about how they were feeling and begin sharing that with others,” she told the Log Cabin Democrat.

The group of UCA students researched socialization methods and also reviewed each of the 16 participating residents’ files to understand their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses. Heading into the program, the group thought it knew exactly what to expect. However, students Anna Grace Clark and Francis Pham said each resident socialized differently than their charts suggested they would have.

“It goes to show that sometimes, what you read on paper isn’t always what’s reflected in the way [one carries] themself and the way that they socialize,” Clark said.

While a few of the participating residents showed to have past behavioral issues, Pham said the group got along well and was happy to find a way to show who they are.

Student Bailey Keaton said ultimately, the project taught residents they could express themselves through art.

The keep the socialization process going, the residents held an art show Friday morning. CHDC staff attended the show, stopping by and visiting with each of the participating residents to learn the thought process behind each personalized piece.

The younger participants decorated masquerade masks. Of the designs included dinosaur themes, superhero creations and a piece showcasing a young girl’s love for horses.

Adult participants painted on canvases.

Resident Mason Pritchard, 19, created a flag on his canvas.

Being able to chose how the flag would look, what colors to use and other features was a great experience for Pritchard, he said.

The 19-year-old resident was excited to show off the flag he painted, pointing to each of the feathers he glued onto the differently-colored quadrants of the piece.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said of the project.

Resident Colby Sanders has a love for music. The 21-year-old did not let this go unnoticed, as his DJ design was centered about his future goals of being a disc jockey.

Sanders said he most enjoys rap and country music, and enjoys spending time practicing his DJ skills.

CHDC Superintendent Sarah Murphy said she was thankful for the relationship between the facility and UCA’s OT department.

“The collaboration results in our residents having great experiences and produces art that they can take back to their bedrooms and look at all year long,” she said.

Each resident was proud of their piece and was happy to detail why they chose the particular designs they did.

Because the OT students created a detailed binder that provided resources and guidance regarding how they conducted this particular program, Murphy said she hopes to keep this activity a regular activity on CHDC’s campus.