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Riverside Art Museum Offers Class for Autistic Children

The Riverside Art Museum is reaching out to a special population of children — those with autism. In the only class of its kind in Riverside, Art Education Director Beth Yeager has put together a curriculum where children 6 to 17, who have mild to moderate autism, are expressing themselves through art.


Yeager, who has been the museum’s art director for the past eight months, has a special education credential and has always loved working with special children.


“Of all the classes offered at the museum, this one really gets to me on a personal level,” she said. “The kids are so happy to be there and are just so proud of their work.”


A Saturday morning at the museum will find eight autistic children eagerly awaiting the day’s project. Seated with them are “typical” students from Riverside Unified School District’s Miller Middle School. These typical students partake in the art project as well, which models the lesson for the special kids.


“It’s all done in a really relaxed, nonthreatening environment,” said Yeager. “I am sometimes not sure who is getting more out of the experience, the autistic kids or the typical kids.”


The theme is usually “animals” and mediums have been watercolor, acrylic paint, oil pastel and even clay. During this winter program, lessons have included butterflies, fish, underwater sea turtles and elephants. Often the student work is displayed in the museum’s Taylor Family Gallery.


“It is so neat to see the students’ reactions when they see their work exhibited in the gallery,” she said. “Cameras come out and parents proudly take pictures of their children.”


The museum has been able to offer this class for about $10 per week thanks to a generous donation by Jacques S. Yeager Sr. Yeager has been a big supporter of the museum’s education program and especially likes this class saying, “I am happy to help. Love to see these children expressing themselves through art.”


In the spring quarter, an additional class will be offered at the museum which will be supported by the Inland Empire Autism Society. Director Beth Burt wrote a grant and received funding to add the class.


After the class was posted on their website, it sold out within hours.


“Incredible!” said Burt. “That tells me that there is a need in Riverside to continue offering classes of this nature.”


If you would like to sponsor an autistic child for an art class at the museum, visit the museum’s website at to make an online donation.


The Press-Enterprise.

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