Sharing the Stage
The Prism Project started as a training mechanism for teachers while offering an arts program for kids with disabilities in East Central Indiana; today, it is much more than that.
According to Ryan Hourigan, the co-founder and co-director of The Prism Project, about 50 Ball State students participate to gain insight with behavior management art integration.
“I got involved because last year one of my good friends was my position. He kind of just signed me up for it. I didn’t really know what it was. And then I got there, and it’s pretty contagious and you just can’t stop,” says Zach Groth, administrative director of The Prism Project.
Since the program began six years ago through an immersive learning grant, The Prism Project is now one of the longest self-sustaining immersive learning projects through donations.
The project allows Ball State students to take something away that they don’t get from other classes.
The project was not an immersive learning experience this semester. Students participated on a volunteer basis. “Immersive learning projects partner interdisciplinary student teams with expert faculty; the goal is to create learning experiences that result in real-world solutions”, according to the Ball State website.
“To me, it means that I get to be a part of something bigger than myself. I think that this project is something really worthwhile to be a part of because it’s something that’s absolutely not about the Ball State kids that are involved,” says Taylor Peterson-Burke, the theater director of The Prism Project.
“Everything that we do is for the performers or the children involved, and I like being able to do something where the end result is not at all about me, it’s just about giving back and about doing something for someone else.”
The Prism Project is a Saturday afternoon program using the performing arts as a medium to explore and develop social skills for children with disabilities.
Performers and Ball State students are paired and rehearsals begin in January to prepare for a performance in April. This year 32 performers from about four to five counties participated in The Prism Project, according to Hourigan.
“These kids… they don’t get this every week, they don’t get this every day at all, and you can see that,” Groth says. “When they get there, they light up, and it’s just really magical to see them come together and perform and make friends and be happy and not feel like they have to hold back because of a special need.”
The annual performance took place on Wednesday with more than 750 people filling seats at Pruis Hall. Families, teachers, students and former Prism Project participants were in attendance.
The Prism Project is presented by the Ball State University School of Music, the Department of Theatre and Dance and Interlock. Interlock’s mission is to assist and educate families in East Central Indiana living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and to assist local special education classrooms to accommodate needs of students with autism spectrum disorders.
“I would say that one thing that I hope that the performance does every year is remind us of these kids and that they shouldn’t be forgotten in our programming,” says Hourigan. “I think that it’s just as much of an awareness event as it is a performing arts event, and what I like, is many teachers from the area come and I like the fact that they potentially could see some of the segments that we use and incorporate them into their classroom, and also that they see that there are ways by which to have the kids access the arts who don’t typically have opportunity.”
Take a look at the rehearsal and performance photos taken and provided by Administrative Director Zach Groth.