Before Karen Nisenson started music therapy with one of her students who was on the autism spectrum, he barely spoke. Now, with the help of her New Canaan organization, Arts For Healing, he has not only developed language and enhanced self-expression, but can play the piano and take part in mainstream school activities.
“I can see the potential in every child and helping that potential emerge is a great feeling,” she said.
That's the goal behind her nonprofit organization, Arts for Healing, which she founded in December of 2000 to break down barriers that isolate adults and children with communication disorders.
Back then, she rented a small studio on Cross Street in New Canaan from local car company, Hoyt Livery. Once word spread, Arts For Healing quickly moved to 24 Grove Street in New Canaan to support all the new clientele. They still support individuals and groups through outreach to schools, hospitals, elderly care and family centers.
"Music and art provide a language that has no words," she said. "They are natural forms of expression.”
The organization's musical theater program, TheatreWorks on Grove, allows participants to create their own original play, reinforcing a positive socialization experience for all children at any level.
"When families see their children change and grow through our programs, they begin to discover who that child is at a deeper level," Nisenson said.
Her success is shown through the varied artwork, created from computerized paint programs to colored duct tape that hangs on display at the Bank of New Canaan and at Arts for Healing. It’s also described in the success stories Nisenson is now able to share.
“Art allows the observer to see inside the minds of these students. Even though they don’t speak, they see the world and perceive it in their own way.”
Nisenson received an MM in Piano Performance from The Juilliard School, and an MA in Music Therapy from New York University, from where she hosts a student intern program.
One past intern and professional conductor, Barbara Yahr, will be bringing her Greenwich Village Orchestra from NYC for a "Together in Music Community Concert" on April 29 at the New Canaan Country School. For more information and tickets ($10 adult, $5 child), call Arts For Healing at 203-972-2982.