This past semester VSA MA partnered with the Duskin Disability Leadership Program at UMass Boston's Institute for Community Inclusion by hosting one of its 2015 trainees. Yui Higashikawa participated in the intensive five-month program for Japanese people with disabilities to develop leadership and self-advocacy skills, which they then take back to Japan.
Yui is a fourth-year student in the English department at Chikushi Jogakuen University in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Born with a physical disability, Yui is an artist and a certified pastel art instructor. She is interested in disability and visual arts, specifically "how art and color affect the mind, body, and brain of people with disabilities and . . . how drawing or reading picture books differently impacts people with various disabilities".
During her time in Boston, Yui assisted and was mentored by Nicole Gsell, a COOL Schools Teaching Artist at the Henderson Inclusion School. For three days a week, Yui shadowed Nicole and even led a lesson on pastels in a K1 classroom. She was able to learn more about arts programs for people with disabilities in the United States, and about how art is used to create more inclusive environments and programs, particularly in schools. The students and staff at the Henderson truly welcomed Yui with open arms and were full of appreciation for her as she departed. At the culminating awards ceremony on December 11, Yui shared how much she would miss her time here in Boston but is so excited about what she learned about herself and her future in arts and inclusive learning environments. Additionally, Yui contributed art to the annual VSA Handmade Holiday Market, helping her discover another outlet for her artistic and career endeavors.Tweet