0220 Art to Achieve.jpg

Abigail, a youngster involved in the Arc Northwest Mississippi’s Art to Achieve program, works on a project during a Saturday morning at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake.  

Gwen Cobb has a heart for youngsters, having been a school teacher for several years as part of the faculty at Southaven Elementary and Hernando Elementary schools before her retirement.

Cobb today continues to touch the lives of youngsters with her involvement with the Arc Northwest Mississippi, in particular, her work as Project Coordinator for the organization’s Art to Achieve.

The program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities last Saturday, Feb. 8, completed its latest four-week program at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake.

Executive Director Rebecca Treadway credits Cobb as the person who designs the different projects for those who take part. Treadway added Cobb also must show each of the teachers how to present it to the participants.

“We couldn’t do it without her,” said Treadway. “The individuals that we serve just don’t have enough outlets of things to do. We have to continue to give them creative, fun things to do so they’re not just isolated and alone on the weekends and they can be interacting with typical peers.”

Cobb has been with Art to Achieve for several years and said she looks to find projects that will fit the skill level of the youngster and also be something they will be pleased to take home.

“I just try to find that quality art that is something that they can be proud of being something that they created,” Cobb said. “I get a lot of ideas and just try to modify it and make it be something they can enjoy making.”

That also means different projects for different age levels.

“For the younger children, we do those activities that can be completed in that 20 minute time segment,” Cobb said. “We want it to be their work, but we do want to guide them and help them make something that they’ll be proud of and put up in their home.”

Art to Achieve has been a growing part of the programs offered by the Arc Northwest Mississippi for those differing needs, either intellectually or developmentally. This year, Treadway said there were 60 participants involved. That also means that 60 others, called buddies, were also there each week to assist, along with instructors and others who were assisting.

“This allows us to do so much with such a wide age range,” Treadway said. “We have a whole group of specialists here that know exactly the right things to say. If an accident happens or behavior gets a little out of control, we have the support here to fix all that.”

And, for Cobb, the enjoyment comes from watching the creations become something special.

“I just love watching them create,” Cobb said. “It’s wonderful to watch them and the excitement they have when they take something and create it and make it their own. It has its own twist and art.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.