Janesville31.4°

Charity art project is sensory experience

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Kayla Bunge
May 23, 2008
— Allison Hokinson, Vicki Cottam and Connie Bier are designing more than just an art project. They’re creating a sensory experience.

“Horse Sense” is among 80 life-size fiberglass colts that will be on display on the streets of Lake Geneva this summer as part of the “Horsing Around Town” exhibition to benefit SMILES therapeutic riding center in Darien. SMILES is an acronym for Special Methods in Learning Equine Skills.


The horse incorporates all five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.


“We wanted to make it sensory for children with disabilities,” said Hokinson, community relations director for the YWCA in Janesville.


The women consulted special education teachers about the project.


They focused on texture and the sense of touch.


“By offering different textures, kids will explore more,” Hokinson said. “If (the texture) changes enough, they won’t pull away.”


The horse’s legs will be covered in rope, rocks and glass stones, and the horse’s tail is made of rope, yarn and strings of beads.


Several messages, such as “You are special” and “You are unique,” will be displayed in Braille on the horse’s body.


A child-size leather saddle will grace the horse’s back.


The senses of smell, taste and hearing were a bit more challenging.


The leather saddle provides some smell, but the women might incorporate eucalyptus or dried sage for more pronounced scents. They want to place a basket of candy near the horse and have music playing nearby to round out the experience.


The women are creating two horses in addition to “Horse Sense.”


One horse, called “When I grow up I want to be a Mustang,” is covered in photos of Ford Mustangs.


Another horse, called “K Seurat Seurat,” is an adaptation of Georges-Pierre Seurat’s famous paintings “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and “Bathers at Asničres.”


Hokinson, Cottam and Bier have spent countless hours working on their horses, but it’s a labor of love for the women.


“I have an ultra soft spot in my heart for kids with limited physical and cognitive abilities,” said Hokinson, whose 12-year-old daughter has disabilities.


Cottam and Bier, both art teachers in the Milton School District, said a number of their students attend SMILES for classes.


The women said they would like to see “Horse Sense” permanently displayed at SMILES following the exhibition.


“It’s not an art piece, it’s an interactive tool,” Hokinson said.


The horses will be revealed at a kick-off event Saturday, May 31. They will then be auctioned off at the end of September, with all proceeds benefiting SMILES.


IF YOU GO
What: “Horsing Around Town” kick-off event
Where: Grand Geneva Resort, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva
When: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 31
Information: Call SMILES at (262) 882-3470 or e-mail smiles@smiles.nu.

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