3 actors in a studio

“It felt like a family”

A letter from Board Chair Frank Myers

Dear Friends,

Your interest in ArtStream shows you truly believe the arts make a difference for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities — including autism. A young man named Langston joined us this year. His ArtStream story starts with feeling inspired by a friend:

I first heard about ArtStream from my best friend. He is an actor in the ArtStream shows and he invited me to come to one of his performances. I was really impressed with the costumes and how everyone worked together. Watching my best friend perform really inspired me. I felt like, “if he can do this, so can I.”

Then I went to ArtStream’s Super Social Saturday class with my friend. The theme that night was Michael Jackson. I was very excited to go and wasn’t nervous at all. I recognized a lot of the actors from the shows. Everyone seemed so comfortable and happy dancing and hanging out. It felt like they’d been together their whole lives. It felt like a family.

2016 was a transition year for ArtStream. And, just like Langston, we are not afraid to try new things. Heller An Shapiro joined ArtStream as the new Executive Director and we added new members to the Board of Directors: Kristen Chou, Eli Lewis, Karen Mitchell, and Paul Murray. We created a new website; new training programs for teaching artists; and new models for collaborating and partnering to better serve the ArtStream community.

The number of 2016 ArtStreamers increased 11% over 2015. That means over 1,100 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities – including autism – participated in more than 650 classes, theater programs and workshops using art to teach communication, self-advocacy, and social skills. With retention rates of 75-88%, ArtStream’s classes and Inclusive Theatre Companies create community opportunities for more people to be a part of the ArtStream Community.

Of particular note, ArtStream published its first book in 2016. ArtStream for Life: A Social Skills and Communication Handbook for Self-Advocates was written by Co-Founder and Master Teacher Nicolette Stearns, M.Ed. This book is intended to lessen social anxiety, improve self-determination, and encourage self-advocacy at the dinner table and in the workplace.

With your generous support, we are prepared to make 2017 a year of growth by:

  • Sharing our new book with both parents and ArtStreamers
  • Increasing the number of classes and workshops for people of all ages
  • Reaching out to new participants throughout the DC/MD/VA region
  • Expanding audiences for our Inclusive Theatre productions, and
  • Collaborating with local organizations.

Take it from Langston:

I would like to tell everyone that ArtStream has become like family to me. If you think it might be for you, then go for it! I’m really glad I did.

Please give generously to help us grow, your donation can and will make a difference.

With heartfelt thanks,


Frank Myers
Chairman, ArtStream Board of Directors

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