Supporting art Saturday is to support an underfunded group of Alachua residents.
The Arc of Alachua County, a nonprofit organization that services people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), will hold its first arts and crafts expo Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Arc, located at 3303 NW 83rd St., administers day programs and staffs group homes for around 107 people with IDD. All proceeds from the sale will go toward the artists.
Twenty artists will have booths at the expo. A mix of paintings, jewelry and desserts will be displayed. The UF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and Grow Hub — a plant nursery that employs disabled people — will also be present.
The Arc is funded by Medicaid waivers and donations from the public. The money goes toward staffing and supplying food for the 16 group homes they sponsor throughout Gainesville, said Shanna Wilson, the human resources administrator at The Arc.
But getting that money is sometimes difficult in Florida.
Florida is ranked low among state funding for people with IDD. In 2017, Florida had the second smallest ratio — $1.97 — of funds for IDD services per $1,000 of statewide income, placing just above Nevada.
“That funding allows individuals with IDD to receive services,” Wilson said. “But it also allows us to pay the people that work for them [a] living wage,” she said.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, states saw an average $2,606 increase to these service funds. The Arc recently received an increase in Medicaid funds for the first time in a while, Wilson said.
Wilson, 31, and day program activities director Cloretta Daniels, 42, began planning the expo in April, giving the artists several months to create their pieces, she said.
People with IDD are able to work on their own, Daniels said, but they sometimes need accommodations.
“Now, everything is so quick-paced,” she said. “And that’s just not our people.”
Daniels hopes the expo will not only provide more resources for the IDD community in Gainesville, she said, but change preconceived notions about the community.
“We just need to slow down the pace,” Daniels said. “Instead of trying to get our population to adapt to us, we need to adapt to them.”
Shyree Wimberly, a 32-year-old Santa Fe College medical transcription junior, will sell around 20 beaded bracelets and jewelry pieces Saturday — but it won’t be her first time getting paid for her craft. She’s been fashioning bracelets for two years and selling them on Facebook and Instagram.
Wimberly has a physical disability that prevents her from walking. She moved into a group home when she was 18.
“They help me with cooking,” she said. “They help me with anything medical — transportation” she said.
Wimberly signed up for a booth at the expo in July after a nurse at The Arc told her about it. She’s excited to meet new people and gain more customers, she said.
The expo will exemplify the work that people with IDD can do, Wilson said, and they need the support right now.
“They often get overlooked for basic roles in the community,” she said. “They have similar needs as us — similar wants and hopes and dreams.”
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Lauren Brensel is a journalism sophomore and a metro reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she's found going on mental health walks, being silly with friends, hiding from the public and reminding those around her that they did this song on Glee.