Published in Rapid Growth Media
April 3, 2014
At Arts in Motion Studio in East Hills, Delight Lester provides the young -- and the young at heart -- space to create, learn, and perform. Zinta Aistars finds out what's so unique about a delightful little studio that serves budding creatives of all abilities with individualized instruction.
Delight Lester, 53, sits comfortably spread out in the corner of the soft couch, her long pale blonde hair draped over her shoulders. She is surrounded by crayons and pastels, colored construction paper and paint brushes. One of her students at Arts in Motion Studio West Michigan, 147 Diamond Avenue SE in Grand Rapids, is sitting at the table in front of her working on a drawing, while another twirls and leaps on the nearby wooden floor in front of a wall of mirrors, her face intent with concentration. It’s a quieter moment in a studio that opens its doors to more than 100 students weekly, sometimes twice that.
Lester is founder and executive director of Arts in Motion, a nonprofit organization that specializes in adaptive instruction in the creative arts for the physically, emotionally or mentally challenged. The studio offers not only dance (ballet, tap, interpretative), but also classes in guitar, visual arts, drama. Music is offered in private as well as group lessons.
“This is Bradley,” Lester nods at the student sitting at the table working on a drawing. “He stopped talking about a year ago.” She hands the young man new colors, and he takes them, smiling at her.
“Yes, there’s lots of therapy in the arts,” Lester nods. “But that’s not what Arts in Motion is about. It’s important to have access to the arts. For everyone. There’s mainstreaming, with people integrating those with disabilities with those who aren’t disabled, and that’s good, but sometimes we need to be with others who are like us.”
Arts in Motion Studio does, in fact, have a music therapist on its staff, Audrey Stein, along with instructor Molly Boughner-Weatherbie, but Lester keeps the focus on being available to whoever comes in her door in as individualized of a manner as possible.
“That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us unique,” she says. “I’ve taken in a child as young as 9 months. Our usual age range is from 2 years old up to age 65, and many of those who are older have grown up with me. My goal is to find people’s value and help them shine, and that has nothing to do with disability. We all need that.”
Lester has worked as an adaptive movement specialist and instructor for 30 years. She is a licensed social worker. Founding Arts in Motion Studio in 2005 was an obvious choice when considering Lester’s journey that brought her here. Daughter of a Presbyterian minister in East Grand Rapids, she grew up on the values of helping those around her, whether refugees or homeless or disabled or simply lost.
“As a kid, I was always fascinated with those who were different than me,” she says. “In the 60s, people with disabilities were often institutionalized.” That made little sense to Lester. Living in a family that was music-oriented, Lester, who played piano and guitar and took voice lessons, found that music could breach any barriers one might face.
When her mother died of cancer, 12-year-old Lester found healing in music. When her father remarried and moved the family to Birmingham, near Detroit, she immersed herself in the arts. When her own marriage ended in divorce, she returned to Grand Rapids, a single mother, looking for home, for work, for answers in the arts.
“I lived by creative camping,” she laughs, alluding to a time when she was homeless and staying with one friend after another or living out of her car. A series of ...
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|Arts in Motion Studio|