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Fundraiser for special needs art class

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When people attend the Aug. 4 Painting Experience to benefit Miss Ali’s Art Class, a local nonprofit that provides affordable art classes for children of all abilities, they’ll be doing far more than creating art for art’s sake. They’ll be making art for the sake of children, who otherwise might not get the opportunity to develop and express their creative sides.

Once Upon a Vine is hosting a painting experience and fundraiser to raise money for the Fall 2023 session of Miss Ali’s Art Class on Friday, Aug. 4, from 5:30-7 p.m., at Once Upon a Vine, 13185 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill. The event will include light food and drinks, a painting experience, a wine glass, and a chance to win prizes for an admission fee of $40.

Taught by Ali Papantoniou, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst at Hernando Schools and an artist and art teacher with the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, this art class program offers children of all abilities the opportunity to learn a vast array of artistic skills in a warm and welcoming forum, for nominal fees.

“These lessons originally were intended for autistic children,” said Papantoniou. “But it has expanded to include kids of many special needs and all abilities. The art class gives them the chance to have the arts experiences that have been denied them–to explore their creativity and to have social, sensory experiences with others. They develop both artistic and social skills.”

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At any given session, students might paint and draw, create works of pop art and cubist castles, paint marble, create patterned trees, make an artsy salad containing pasted symbols of their favorite things, design pastel galaxy space scenes, and draw monsters to represent fears and anxieties. Yet regardless of the individual activity, these kids are benefiting from a specially geared teaching technique known as ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis, “the scientific approach for discovering environmental variables that reliably influence socially significant behavior and for developing a technology of behavior change that takes practical advantage of those discoveries.” (https://missalisartclass.com/about-aba)

“Using materials like clay, paints, tissue papers, etc., they make all types of art,” said Papantoniou. “In the process, they learn to take directions, to explore, to create. And they get to interact with kids not like them, that they would not have met otherwise.”

This year, the first two 8-week sessions of Miss Ali’s Art Class were generously funded by sponsor Remax Marketing Specialists and by way of a Community Arts grant from Hernando County Fine Arts Council–a longtime supporter of Miss Ali’s Art Class. “At this time, we need more funds for supplies,” said Papantoniou, “so Once Upon a Vine generously contributed their space on August 4th for a night of wine, fun, and art to raise funds for the Fall 2023 session of classes!”

The arts experience offered at the fund-raiser will involve the painting of a rainbow-patterned puzzle piece onto a wine glass; a universally recognized symbol for autism. As they create, guests will enjoy beverages and hors d’oeuvres courtesy of Yo Pauley’s Slice Shop. And they can win raffle prizes that include gift certificates from local businesses.

Lori Stover, owner of Once Upon a Vine, is proud to host a fund-raiser on behalf of Miss Ali’s Art Class.
“As a retired educator of over 29 years, I realize the importance of students being able to express themselves through art,” she said. “Once Upon a Vine is honored to be able to host Miss Ali’s Art Class fundraiser so that she can continue to offer art classes to our Special Needs children at no cost to them! This is such a worthy cause and is a wonderful way for our community to support our students!”

Purchase a painting experience for $40, or donate directly on Venmo – https://account.venmo.com/u/missalisartclass. To RSVP for this event or to contribute a donation for a raffle prize, please email Ali Papantoniou at [email protected]

Papantoniou, for her part, feels that each of her students is themselves a work of art. “I love the imprints that we make on these kids’ lives.”

For more information about Miss Ali’s Art Class, due to start again in September, visit https://missalisartclass.com/.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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