Accomplished local artist Aaron Rendoff created an inclusive art class for his peers at Spectrum Day Program
Aaron Rendoff has worked hard his entire life to find his voice as a painter, a writer, an actor and a director. But that wasn’t enough for the 41-year-old Denver man. Earlier this year, Rendoff, who has spastic cerebral palsy and an autism spectrum disorder, added one more line to his impressive resume. He became a teacher. Rendoff, who has advocated to make the world a more accepting and inclusive place, earlier this year created and lead an art class for 25 of his peers at Spectrum Day Program.
Rendoff found his love of art at an early age but struggled in typical art classes. His fine motor skills made the classes difficult. Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by increased muscle tone which makes movement difficult and sometimes impossible.
The barriers that he faced didn’t discourage him, and his drive to create led him to begin experimenting, studying and learning technique on his own. Over the years, Rendoff has had opportunities to learn from local artists and he feels blessed by these experiences. He has found his style and become a working artist, arranging to sell his paintings in coffee shops and restaurants around the city.
The staff at Spectrum invited Rendoff to lead an art class for his peers because they were aware of his ability. His father works for Spectrum and Rendoff has attended the day program in the past. He took the offer and the challenge of creating a class very seriously. His goal was to offer a genuinely artistic experience to every single person in the room. What he put together definitely fit the bill.
Rendoff designed a painting lesson that could be adapted for each person in the class based on their skill level. He used his own money to purchase canvases and art supplies and took the time to prepare a canvas for each person in the class. His foresight and prep work allowed everyone to be successful.
Rendoff gave the class step-by-step instructions and worked with people individually to support them in learning technique. He also had some classroom assistants who he utilized to offer extra support to people during the class.
What people in the class did not see were the internal hurdles Rendoff had to navigate. The students in the class were diverse, there was a wide range of abilities and the room was noisy. Rendoff experiences sensory sensitivities and the noise and activity in the room was a challenge. He was able to stay externally calm and collected and work through his internal frustrations without it affecting his teaching and support of the students. It helped that he is very familiar with Spectrum Day Program, and it’s a place where he feels comfortable and safe. That sense of safety and security helped to make this the perfect opportunity for him to try his hand at teaching.
Rendoff takes great pride in how he organized and ran the class.
“I hope that the experience encourages people to take art classes, or teach or direct,” Rendoff said. “Let’s forget about what you can’t do and focus on what you can do.”
Over the years Rendoff has gained a tremendous amount of self-respect and confidence through the arts and he knows it can be the same for others if they take the first step.
He may have the opportunity to organize a second class in the future but isn’t sure if that is the path he will choose. He wants to continue to write and direct and have opportunities such as this to experiment, test his own boundaries and continue to learn.