A+ Art Club: Autism and the Arts, is an art program for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum that began in 2010. The purpose of the program is to provide the opportunity for participants to develop art and social skills in a well structured, safe, social environment.
A+ Art Club offers a weekly art-making and social experience to young people on the autism spectrum who are in the transitional age group of 15 – 21 years. Area artists teach sessions in a variety of media. Peer volunteers from St. Olaf College work side-by-side with the students with autism.
The success of the program is evaluated by student, volunteer, and parent surveys and is assessed by teachers and coordinators. Goals and objectives for each project are compared with outcomes to define and develop characteristics of successful art projects. The development of interpersonal skills, self-esteem, the ability to critique their work, and the uniqueness and quality of the art work the students produce are also indicators of the success of the program.
The program is led by Laura Goodwin, with the help of Meg Ojala, a professor of art at St.Olaf College. Autism Specialist for the Northfield Schools, Deb Peters, trains teachers and volunteers to work with club members on the autism spectrum. The A+ Art Club meets at the Northfield Arts Guild.