In (And Out Of) The Studio

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Break Time!

Every artist needs to get out of the studio from time to time.  To get out into the fresh air, stretch the legs, take a moment to reflect, or just have a snack.

The EC artists are no exception.  We are in the studio 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, 12 months of the year … getting out of the studio a few times a month is a well-deserved break.

Outing days are limited to destinations within walking distance, so being downtown is great, as there are lots of interesting destinations.

One of our monthly outings is called Sweet Treat Tuesday. We venture out in search of a vendor selling sweet treats… on a Tuesday.  We have a few other outings, too.  Wired Wednesday– one Wednesday a month we go for a walk to get coffee (or cocoa or whatever).  The Downtown Lowdown outing is new for 2016. We’ll be visiting cool businesses, learning about what they do, meeting the people who work there, and reporting back in a bi-monthly blog.

Be A Good Customer… And A Smart One, Too

The EC artists are good customers and smart consumers.  We know that if 12 to 15 of us suddenly descend upon a business, it can be overwhelming… so we’re patient.  We stand in line and wait our turn.  We are friendly and polite.  We’re pretty easy to please, but if someone is not sure what they want, we will let other customers go ahead of us.

We like going to places where we can get good food, good service, and a good price.  We like going places where we feel comfortable– where the people are cool, relaxed, and Continue reading

The Art That Breaks Silence

David Schwartz of We Are Lions– “A community that makes art into clothing and clothing into art. Raising money for incredible artists with and without disabilities and great organizations”– gives a TEDx talk about how imperfections great and small, whether labeled as a disability or not, are the shared traits that make us gloriously human.

Enrichment Center Advice for Royal Baby George

The EC artists followed the royal pregnancy in its final weeks, wondering when the baby would come, and if it would be a boy or girl… a king or queen. When a baby boy was born to William and Kate in July 2013, the EC artists wondered about the kind of person he would grow up to be. Would he benefit from his late grandmother’s influence on his dad? Would he be pampered and spoiled into royal snootiness, like his grandfather? Would he be King?… So, we pondered the advice we would give, to make him a good king, and a cool, well-rounded guy.

“Brave, but foolish,” said the Sphinx

In late May 2013, the Enrichment Center Theatre Arts component completed production of it’s “theatrical trailer” for Ed the King, a take on Oedipus Rex.  

James Brizendine………… Ed the King

Hilda Cotta………………….Tiresias, the Blind and Wise

Ivan Hernandez……………The Sphinx

Eric Thompson…………….Young Ed

Jose Miguel Castaneda…. First Man at the Sphinx / Young Ed’s Father

Richard Chavez…………… Wizard

Calixta Perez……………….Queen

Sofia Mendez……………….Ed’s son

Anna Reyna………………..Person who crowns Young Ed

and as the Starving Masses:

Juan Betancourt, Calixta Perez, Maria Chavez, Sofia Mendez, Danette Rizzonelli, Shirley Brizendine, Marlen Hernandez

Self Portrait

The visual arts class, led by current teacher/dcs Cristal Flores, is coming to the close of a weeks-long study of the artist’s greatest critique– the self portrait.  It is safe to say that every visual artist makes at least one self portrait during their career.  We might go farther to say that most visual artists make a number of self portraits during their career… in fact, we know some artists who’ve made themselves the subject of much of their work.

And why wouldn’t artists make their own portrait before attempting that of another?  We know our own face better than any other.  It’s the face we see in the mirror, and touch with our hands.  We know every wrinkle and pore.  What it is, and what it is not.  And because we know how we see ourselves, we think we know how other people see us.

But do we?

Do people see us as we see ourselves, or do they see us differently?

And if they do see us differently, how do they see us?

And, does it matter?

And, is that why we make self portraits?  To document what we see of ourselves, so that others will see it as we do?


As a program, we know what and who we are.  People, artists, friends.  We know our purpose.  Coming to program every day to make art and be with each other.  We know our abilities and disabilities.  They don’t frighten us. Why would they?

But, people who don’t know our program don’t know what and who we are. They don’t know our purpose. They don’t know our abilities and disabilities, and that may frighten them.

This becomes obvious when we are looking for new teachers.  Some applicants are completely interested in the position, right up to the point where they read the words developmental disabilities

“Down’s Syndrome.  What’s that?!   Isn’t a syndrome contagious?”

“Mental Retardation.  Am I even allowed to say that?!”

“Autism?  Seizure Disorders?… really??  People are going to be having seizures?!”

“I’m not qualified to work with people like that.”

“Don’t they need nurses or something?”

We could get offended, and call them names.  But that wouldn’t be fair.  Or nice.  And if there’s anything we know about ourselves, it is that we are fair and nice. We could say “Eh. So what? Who cares if people understand who we are and what we do?”  But that would be dishonest, because we really do want people to know who and what we are.  We’re awesome, duh.

So, we created this video– a self portrait.  It shows people what we see– who we are, what we do, our abilities, and disabilities, and gives a brief glimpse into our awesomeness.  Enjoy.

The Enrichment Center is designed for medium to high functioning adults with developmental disabilities.  Our clients feed themselves, and take themselves to the restroom.  They don’t need nurses.  Yes, some of our clients have seizure disorders, and we may have one or two seizures occur at program each year… but we don’t think that a seizure looks like you think it looks.  You won’t get in trouble for saying ‘mental retardation’.  It’s just a diagnosis.   Down’s Syndrome is not contagious.  And no… you are not a bad person for wondering about any of those things.

Project: Art for the Heart

Phase 4:  The Art of Healthy Choices

Those of us who have the ability to control the factors that go into our personal health and well-being, should be grateful for that freedom.  We should take advantage of it, and make the best choices possible. Many of the artists of the Enrichment Center (EC), and others with disabilities, do not have that freedom or ability, relying on friends, family, and social services to make choices regarding food, activity, environment, etc.

James and Shirley Brizendine are two artists who take full advantage of their freedoms, and make some great choices to enhance their well-being.  James and Shirley have been married for 39 years, and artists at the Enrichment Center for the last 12 years.

Shirley & James Brizendine at the Arts Center, during the "Rescue the Arts" campaign. 2011.
Shirley & James Brizendine at the Arts Center, during the “Rescue the Arts” campaign. 2011.

In addition to spending their days at EC, James and Shirley make decisions to increase their well-being every day.  They are active folks, walking their dog, to the shops in their neighborhood, and to church each Sunday.  At home, James paints and practices guitar, while Shirley draws and makes beaded necklaces.  They count themselves as fortunate that their current home is in a safe neighborhood, and they are close to family who live nearby if they need assistance.  Their neighbors are helpful and friendly, and there is a church within walking distance.  For Shirley, church is an important element of well-being.  For several years, she and James lived in apartments with no church nearby.  Now they walk to church each Sunday. Their blessings are so numerous; James and Shirley may run out of fingers and toes to count them all.

When asked about the first and best heart-healthy change people could make, James says, “Cut out the junk food.”  Shirley adds, “Yeah.  And eat more vegetables.”

Cooking is often a limited option for many people with disabilities.  Working with knives and heating appliances can be dangerous. As a safety precaution, microwave heating of ready-made meals and leftovers may be the full range of cooking options available.  Many people with disabilities rely on family and friends to shop for their groceries, and cook their meals.

James and Shirley do their own shopping, and prepare their own meals.  Lasagna, spaghetti, pizza, soup, carrot cake and cookies, James and Shirley cook almost everything “from scratch”.  They like to cook, and cook together.  It’s not a chore; it’s a privilege.

We asked James to suggest the recipe that they use most:  Peanut Butter Cookies—a treat.


1 cup Shortening (or margarine or butter)
1 cup Brown sugar
2 Eggs
½ cup Peanut butter
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
¼ teaspoon Salt


Mix shortening, brown sugar, and eggs. Add peanut butter and vanilla, salt and flour. Roll to size of large marbles. Press slightly with fork and bake in hot oven at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until brown.

James & Shirley Brizendine's recipe for homemade Peanut Butter Cookies

James & Shirley Brizendine’s recipe for homemade Peanut Butter Cookies

The wonderful thing about cooking and baking from scratch, is that you can use ingredients you already have on hand, which may be cheaper, or even… healthier.  James and Shirley substitute margarine or real butter for shortening. If they don’t have enough margarine, they may add more peanut butter. James admits that they run out of brown sugar, which they replace with “white” granulated sugar.  (I substitute egg replacer for the eggs.)

No matter what ingredients you use, these homemade cookies will be free of preservatives, with no extra junk thrown into the mix to make them “chewier,” “fresher,” or “low-fat.”

Cut the "junk" out of your sweet treats. Make them from scratch!

Cut the “junk” out of your sweet treats. Make them from scratch!

What? You don’t like Peanut Butter Cookies? Well then, leave out the peanut butter, reduce the flour to 2 and ¼ cups, and add oatmeal… or chocolate chips… or walnuts… or dried fruit… or whatever you like. Summon your inner artist, and get creative.  Don’t forget to count your blessings, and make healthy choices like James and Shirley.