Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

How Will the Artism Creativity Center Continue?

Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

How Will the Artism Creativity Center Continue?

Article excerpt


The main dilemmas faced by Artism Creativity Center (ACC), a nonprofit organization based in California, were leadership succession and how to set up a lasting organizational infrastructure, including a board of directors and fund raising. Mai, the current executive director, would likely leave at the end of her senior year of high school and attend college, probably out of state. Given the lack of a funding base, the successor would likely have to be a volunteer. What characteristics should the successor have? Mai and Shu, her mother and an experienced art teacher, also needed to select the right people for their board, if they were to build a lasting organization. They wanted people with a commitment to autism, and the financial wherewithal to donate, say $1,000 annually.

Mai's mother, Shu, emigrated from China in 1995 with her husband, who received his doctorate in the United States and pursued a career as a successful entrepreneur. Shu chose a career in the arts; she graduated from Shanghai University's fine arts department. She had 12 years of experience teaching art to children. She later majored in studio art at San Jose State University and spent four years teaching art to local children. Shu was the ACC art adviser, who created programs, curated curricula, and supervised volunteers. Mai, a senior in high school, served as the president of the organization, and was in charge of writing class material, sending out class notification emails, and reaching out to other programs. To date the organization had been supported through donations from their family, roughly $10,000 over the past 12 months, without a planned budget.

The father, with an engineering doctorate, was a serial entrepreneur who had created various successful companies that were sold so he provided consultative assistance when needed. The family had the financial resources to continue funding ACC at its current level. However, the family understood that an on-going viable organization should diversify its funding base beyond one family.


ACC helped students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to use art to connect with the world, as well as help others better understand the thinking processes of these children. ASD was a mental disorder that affected cognitive development and impaired communication and language skills. "Spectrum" meant levels of disability, often characterized by social interaction and communication difficulties, limited interests and repetitive behaviors. Individuals with ASD typically showed symptoms in the first two years of childhood. Some individuals with ASD functioned in society and maintained employment while others were severely disabled (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Volunteers taught students shading, tracing, sketching and more in their artistic journeys. The ACC partnered with local art institutions and instructors. ACC based its approach in part on practical experience and also on research of the field.

Art Therapy for Autism

The Autism Society of America in conjunction with the American Art Therapy Association (2016) developed a toolkit and resources for healthcare professionals and individuals on the autism spectrum and family members and caregivers. Autistic people may feel overstimulated with limited communication skills; art therapy provided an outlet for expression and emotion and a vehicle for communication. Credentialed art therapists have masters' degrees and are certified by the Art Therapy Credentials Board. There are three levels: Registered Art Therapist, Board Certified Art Therapist, and Art Therapy Certified Supervisor.

ASD students had benefitted from art-related instruction. In a study of a program for ASD children ages 11 through 18, the researchers found that students benefitted in assertion scores (i.e., positive expressions), decreased internalizing behaviors (e.g., sadness and anxiety), hyperactivity, and problem behavior (Epp, 2008). …

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