Artistic Futures: Visual Arts Mentorship for Adults with Special Needs

Artistic Futures ARTFEST 2018 poster.png

Current Program Participants


Keifer Blight

Keifer Blight

Hayden Kaack

Hayden Kaack

Exhibition of program participants Keifer Blight & Nicolas Stiener Bell, The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning, Kingston, ON 2017

Exhibition of program participants Keifer Blight & Nicolas Stiener Bell, The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning, Kingston, ON 2017

About the program~


Artistic Futures provides adults with special needs the opportunity to work one on one with a professional artist mentor with the goal of supporting the development of studio skills/routines, the production/exhibition of bodies of original art works and the establishment of professional practices.


Artistic Futures provides support to Kingston area artists with special needs in developing independent art practices thus increasing accessibility and diversity in Kingston's Visual Arts offerings and serving as a leader in increasing inclusivity in the arts sector.


Artistic Futures is committed to developing and promoting the artistic practices of adults with special needs in the Kingston area thus increasing diversity and inclusivity in our artistic community while strengthening the viability of artistic practices as a life skill & profession for artists with special needs.

Program Description

Artistic Futures: Visual Arts Mentorship for Adults with Special Needs.

Facilitated by Gabriel Deerman (M.F.A., O.C.T.)


It is well known that art making can provide therapeutic benefits, but for certain individuals the benefit goes beyond this- it can become a genuine life skill, direction, provide a sense of pride and purpose as a contributor to communities and potentially become a source of income. This unique program strives to be a leader in promoting inclusivity and diversity in the arts- an area that, with support, offers possibility for individuals that are too often assumed not to have the potential to have a professional occupation.

Artists with special needs often require one on one support and the personal relationship and guidance provided by a mentor. Gabriel Deerman has been facilitating art sessions for young adults and adults with special needs (primarily Autism) since 2014 and has now expanded the program into Kingston at The Tett Centre where he currently provides mentorship to three participant artists. Individuals who have worked with Gabriel have gained confidence and independence in studio work in ways that result directly from the support he provides and have shared their talents and vision with the community through public exhibition. Gabriel worked with participants and their families in planning/curating an exhibition at The Tett Centre in 2017 which provided a culminating event for the year’s work and in 2014 supported a participating artist in gaining inclusion in a museum exhibition.

Having a truly inclusive arts community must go beyond exhibiting a diverse array of artists, ensuring the diversity of boards, etc. It is necessary to provide the support needed to potential artists who need help in getting started and navigating the complexities required in establishing a successful arts practice. This begins with studio work but includes providing support in planning exhibitions, documenting work, creating websites, submitting to calls, writing proposals and the myriad of tasks a professional artist must complete peripheral to the actual creation of work. This program strives to start with the art and assist in the journey that artists with special needs must venture in the establishment of a visual arts practice.


About Gabriel:

Gabriel is an Ontario certified teacher with years of experience teaching art with students of all ages and needs. He currently works with New Leaf Link (a N.F.P. educational program for adults with special needs) as their visual arts instructor. Gabriel completed his BFA at The Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C. and his MFA at The Transart Institute in Berlin, Germany/NYC,  is a professional artist who has exhibited internationally and is the program director for Salmon River Studios.


When & Where:

Sessions are available in the Tett Centre’s Creativity Studios on Fridays and at Salmon River Studios in Tamworth on other weekdays


How it Works:

Instruction/mentorship follows a basic format with the goals of: 

·             identifying artistic interests, tendencies & preferred materials/techniques/media

·             developing and following routines

·             exploring areas for growth

·             developing project commitment resulting in finishing/documenting/exhibiting works

·             developing support material needed for project/exhibition/grant proposals, websites and other professional requirements ancillary to studio production


Student Fee/Payment Structure:

·             Students pay $50 per session to Gabriel Deerman  

·             Payments are made on a monthly basis the first class of each month or biannually

·             Missed sessions are not refunded

·             Expenses relating to exhibitions will be in addition to the base fees and will include space rental, framing, printed            materials etc. (unless covered by funding/sponsorship)



·             Ideal candidates are 18+, have the interest, skill, focus and the independent skills necessary to complete 1.5 hours of studio work without the need for a care giver (care givers may attend with minimal intervention).

·             Participants must be able to use and inhabit communal spaces in a manner that does not infringe on other artist’s studio space or experience.

·             Participants must commit to a minimum of 6 months of sessions (after an agreed upon number of trial sessions) and exhibition as spaces are limited and this program requires time to get started, develop a working relationship, generate ideas, develop skills/routines, produce work and prepare for exhibition.