Normandale Helps Ability Soar

By Jane Fenton

Normandale Art Instructor Sheryl McRoberts did a bit of a double-take when Sonia Boyer walked into her 3D Art class. Boyer, who has no arms, was there as a recent Richfield High School grad who was taking some extra classes in preparation for applying to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

McRoberts was mystified as to how a student without arms was going to take 3D Art, but decided to wait and see.

In the meantime, Boyer had asked her grandma if she could accompany her to class each Wednesday night for three hours during the fourteen weeks. It was too much for her grandma, so she turned to her former art teacher, Jen Kraus. Kraus had Boyer in various classes for two years already, and was familiar with Boyer's abilities and limitations. Boyer can't carry items or handle larger pieces simultaneously, but she can use her feet to cut, sculpt and shape.

"I was not psyched at first when I signed up and I was going to drop, but then Kraus said she would come, so I thought I would give it a try. Drawing and pottery are my main things," Boyer explained.

McRoberts was impressed with Kraus' voluntary assignment. "She came faithfully, and what amazed me was how well they collaborated and how very little she actually had to do for Sonia." Kraus only helped when Boyer's feet tired.

Kraus describes the experience as "The transformation from teacher to student, to collaborator. At first, it was challenging because she had to teach me how she thought, which is different than how I see when I'm creating art. We developed a common language to talk about how we created. I learned a lot about ability and observation."

McRoberts reflects on the time as a "testament to what Normandale does really well- take students as they are and help them grow toward their vision of what they want to be, without focusing on limitations."