The recent art exhibit at Patton’s in Slidell displayed beautiful and colorful expressions of the worldview of artists affiliated with STARC.

STARC works to help people with developmental disabilities reach their potential, and its executive director, Diane Baham, prefers to focus on people’s abilities rather than their disabilities.

She said, “Our services reach out to individuals to connect with the ability behind the disability. You can say that we are in the business of building independence, day by day and step by step.”

The annual Art Night demonstrated the success and fulfillment that art classes for adult clients provide. Local professional artists provide yearround instruction, resulting in works that are stunning, done in eye-catching colors and styles. Some among us, who have everyday struggles, express pure understanding of images they capture in their art.

Instructor Sandra Schott provided coloring pencils and construction paper for students who attended the event. Without hesitation and with great confidence, Ray Charles Ruffin took a sheet of black paper and a white pencil and began drawing a daisy. When he finished his work Schott instructed him to go in, find his friends, have something to eat, and enjoy the live jazz music.

“This event is about having fun, enjoying the attention, and mingling with the community,” she said.

Art instructor Emile Henriquez feels that the art classes are therapeutic for his clients, providing them with feelings of freedom and pride. Laura Muller, who was using markers provided by Henriquez, reiterated his view by smiling and saying, “Everyone in my family wants me to do paintings for them.” At this happy event, even people beyond her family marveled at her talent and others’ talents as patrons purchased paintings on display.

Among the many paintings available to buy were wonderful sets of note cards with artwork printed on each cover flap. In this collection were a fleur de lis, a red crab, a pink ribbon with a heart where the ribbon crossed, and an outline of Louisiana with several iconic local images inside.

Nature scenes, pets, wild animals, birds, and butterflies were prominent throughout the exhibit. Drawn with amazing accuracy and insight, each was painted and decorated beautifully. Artist Paul Lassalle made use of Mardi Gras beads and completed a painting of a lizard on a gold background. The green lizard was highlighted with green beads on the body and purple beads for toes and eyes. The title “My Little Fella” made the work all the more appealing to viewers.

In another work of a frog assessing his swampy environs, Nick Pergola painted every aspect of the amphibian with professional aplomb. Beautiful shading, highlights, and coloring were impressive on the dotted creature as he sat among the reeds.

Any artist who visited the 2014 STARC Art Night could see the value that creative opportunities provide. Programs and services help individuals lead meaningful, productive, and fulfilling lives. From early intervention services for infants with developmental delays to services for seniors, STARC provides services to all ages through creative and intellectual cultivation. Thousands have been helped since the nonprofit organization’s inception in 1972.

For information on how to purchase artwork, donate, or volunteer, call Diane Trembley or Meredith Wright at (985) 641-0197 or visit their website,

Kathleen DesHotel writes about the cultural arts in St. Tammany. To reach her, email