Jaimie Blackman has had a lifelong love for Adult Resources Center.
“My earliest recollection is playing guitar at ARC when I was 13 or14 years of age,” Blackman said, laughing. “My parents were involved with ARC, and they schlepped me – I mean, I knew two chords, and they schlepped me – to one of the meetings, and I just started playing for the group.”
He carried on his parents’ legacy at ARC as an involved supporter and served on the board for about ten years, including a stint as executive vice president, before becoming board president earlier this year.
With his new position comes a new vision for the agency: To become the premiere arts organization for people with developmental disabilities.
Art and music have a unique ability to bridge the divide between people.
“For the people we serve, it’s lonely when you lack certain verbal skills or are functioning at a fifth or sixth grade level as an adult,” Blackman said. “What we’ve seen through our existing arts programs is that music and the visual arts offer the opportunity for them to connect and communicate.”
It’s all about making people feel valued and worthy, he said.
“Music allows you to connect to something bigger than yourself,” Blackman said. “And these people see this, and feel it when they are playing music.”
ARC has been recognized and received numerous awards for Medicaid services including its residential, day habilitation and vocational programs. The arts program has been active and rewarding, but not front and center in the agency’s identity, Blackman said.
“For the last six years we’ve had students taking music lessons and taking art lessons,” Blackman said. “We now want to put that in the front of the organization and make this and art-centric agency.”
“We’ve already created a showcase band, and our vision is to have them play out in the community,” Blackman said. “These are high-functioning individuals, and when they have their instruments and begin to play, they become Superman and Supergirl.”
The new focus means allocating resources to support high-quality music education, music therapy, and opportunities to engage with the community. Blackman said the program would be looking for participants with high musical aptitude and interest and those who are already playing an instrument.
“We want any family with loved ones who are special needs, whether that be developmentally disability or autism, and they have an interest in the arts to know we are the go-to agency in Brooklyn and Queens.”
Blackman said he hopes the narrowed focus of the agency and the expansion of the arts programs will attract partnerships and sponsorships with arts organizations and business. One of the first significant goals is to launch a capital campaign to build a creative arts center for performing and visual arts.
“I think what’s going to make our agency stand out is the level of engagement that we are able to give these folks when they get up and perform in front of people,” he said.
“That’s the healing, therapeutic component of healing of the arts, and it’s very powerful.”
When Jaimie is not playing his guitar for Arts@ARC projects, he is playing his financial calculator as President of BH Wealth Management. (bhwealth.com)