By Dan McManmon, Director of Marketing
*Originally published in the Artful Mind
Having grown up in the town of Lee, I have fond memories of the 5 & 10 that catered to us kids with bins of assorted candies, airplane and car model kits, toy guns and just about everything else you can imagine. My summer jobs always revolved around my fathers business, the College Internship Program, or CIP.
As an adult, I now work for CIP in marketing and admissions. It has slowly become my passion and I see CIP as a project of my fathers to build off and take to the next level. CIP has helped hundreds of young adults with Learning Differences such as Asperger’s Syndrome and ADD/HD develop skills in areas of their lives so that they can live independently, hold jobs and even purse college. I’ve gotten to know the young adults enrolled in the program fairly well. I see the gifts and challenges they possess first-hand.
In the past few years the art scene in the Berkshires has grown, and the awareness of special education has become more and more recognized in society. These two seemingly unconnected worlds recently collided into something truly inspirational, something my father, Michael McManmon, had the foresight to see as an amazing opportunity for our young adults in the program, as well as the larger community. The Good Purpose Gallery and Spectrum Playhouse are helping to connect art and education in a meaningful way with CIP’s help.
A little over two years ago, the same building that housed H.A. Johansson Five & Dime sat dormant on the Main St of Lee. Now when you enter the building, the Starving Artist Creperie connects to the Good Purpose Art Gallery. The upper two floors are used for the CIP offices and classrooms where CIP staff holds group and individual appointment with students. Our students meld with locals, tourists, artists and each other. Their classes overflow from gallery to playhouse to CIP buildings. The students reside close-by in apartments and the small town of Lee serves as their “campus”.
A former church, the Spectrum Playhouse now provides a year-long season of community events including kids entertainment, classical music, improv comedy and other entertainment. Even the Starving Artist Creperie has student interns working and gaining experience. CIP students are engrained in these businesses, both as audience members and more importantly, as actors, artists and interns. They are proud of their titles and are accepted in the community as individuals. The opportunities for real experience offered serve as a stepping-stone for their personal development and integration within the community. Our students have opportunities to exhibit in a professional gallery, perform at a real playhouse, and practice and refine the skills they learn at CIP.
Michael McManmon, my father, has been an artist his whole life, ran group homes in his twenties, and has been a psychologist for 35 years. He has poured himself into his business for the past 28 years and has experienced first-hand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to special education. His goal for the coming year is to align his own passion in the arts with CIP by incorporating visual and performing arts as a formal option for students to pursue.
Our students often have special talents due to their narrow areas of focus. They often need to be taught many of the skills that the rest of us may learn naturally, such as social skills, time management, organization, cooking, cleaning, etc. That is why the CIP program exists. The motto, which you will find in all CIP locations on walls and in printed materials, is “You were made for good purpose and are inherently valuable”. It is the glue that connects everything together. Why not use a medium such as creative arts as a mechanism for teaching, learning and growth?