The Arch of Essex teaches adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities


New Jersey is breaking stereotypes and reinventing the way adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities are taught.

The center is called “Studio Ark” and focuses more on creativity than anything else, CBS 2’s John Dias reported Friday.

“I feel creative, creative,” said Jamie DiGuglielmo, 51, of Bloomfield. “I’m happy when I’m here, I love the work I do.”

DiGuglielmo said there’s no need to stifle her imagination and that with a little help, she can let her talents blossom. She is one of around 300 adults taking part in activities at the new Arch studios in Essex, which opened in June.

It is a 5,500-square-foot facility in Fairfield dedicated to providing a variety of creative activities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Groups take buses and come for a few hours at a time.

Evelyn Gallick, assistant manager at the Arch of Essex, said, “Often people with intellectual disabilities are not thought of as very creative. Here they thrive, they flourish.” “We call them The Craftsmen here because everything they do is a beautiful work of art.”

They live for it, learning things like how to be a master chef in the kitchen and even yoga.

“Everything we do is always a teaching moment. It’s always teaching and learning,” Galic said.

The Arch of Essex has been around for 75 years and helps children and adults. However, the CEO says that the COVID pandemic made them realize they needed a new way to provide support to their older participants.

“Giving people a brush, giving them a playlist of music to dance to and see what comes out,” said Linda Lucas, CEO of Arc of Essex.

They do not focus solely on professional and employment related activities as other agencies do.

“There are other people who don’t want that kind of lifestyle, or who want a different kind of job,” Lucas said.

The studio recruits professionals from the community to teach visiting and participating participants their creative talents.

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