Creative Partnership Leads to Eye-Popping Art at Bancroft

Close-up of mural at Jacob Schaefer Center

Creative Partnership Leads to Eye-Popping Art at Bancroft

Arts in Healing Mural Unveiled With Help From Perkins Center for the Arts and TD Bank Charitable Foundation

Bancroft has unveiled a vibrant new mural at their Jacob Schaefer Center (JSC) in Cherry Hill, NJ. The mural is the capstone of the Arts in Healing program for adults with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) at Bancroft, a successful partnership with the Perkins Center for the Arts, a fellow nonprofit rooted in the South Jersey community. Generously supported by the TD Bank Charitable Foundation, the project was led by Ali M. Williams, a Philadelphia-based artist renowned for her mural artwork.

Mural at the Jacob Schaefer Center for adults with autism and intellectual disabilities

“Incorporating the arts into the lives of those we support is a way to honor their creativity and foster meaningful connection and expression,” said Toni Pergolin, President and CEO of Bancroft. “I am so grateful to TD Bank Charitable Foundation, Perkins Center for the Arts, and Ali for their instrumental roles in bringing this enriching experience to Bancroft.”

Arts in Healing at Bancroft, in partnership with Perkins, is a year-long, in-depth cultural and artistic program for adults with autism and I/DD that provides immersive arts experiences, as well as opportunities for physical wellness and improved social skills. Some of the highlights include cultural dance classes, “Meet the Instruments” multi-sensory mini-concerts, “Folklife Food” cooking lessons and demonstrations celebrating various cultural traditions, and the mural that was recently unveiled.

Facing the garden at the Jacob Schaefer Center, the colorful mural invites individuals to connect with the world outside, even during the bleak winter months. It features the chickens who live adjacent to the garden, a favorite among the adults who attend the day program at JSC. Ali Williams, the artist chosen to lead the project, designed the mural with the help of adults in Bancroft’s day program through hands-on workshops and brainstorming sessions. She has created many community-based murals in the Philadelphia region, including murals at CHOP, Morris Home, Philadelphia NASDAQ headquarters, a Verizon ‘Call for Kindness’ campaign and more. 

“The power of community art is so much more than the finished product you see. It’s really about the stories behind the art, the connections and community building that happens behind the scenes,” said Ali. “I started the workshops at Bancroft with a blank slate. There was no concept or vision for the mural. It truly is a reflection of the shared ideas and creativity of the participants.”

At one of the workshops, for instance, Ali asked the participants to design and color a blank paper chicken. When they were finished, she hung all the chickens on a clothesline and asked them to choose their favorites. This is how the final designs for the three chickens featured on the mural were chosen and incorporated into the mural. 

“Ali was wonderful with the participants, just so engaging,” said Linda Miller, Therapeutic Activities Coordinator at Bancroft. “Arts in Healing has been an amazing program for the individuals we support, not only bringing cultural and artistic experiences to them here at Jacob Schaefer but also bringing them out into the community, which is so important.” 

Barriers such as transportation limitations, environmental obstacles, communication methods, and funding constraints can restrict access to cultural events, programs, and traditions for individuals with autism and I/DD. At Bancroft, our mission is to empower the individuals we support to realize their best life. Enriching experiences like the Arts in Healing program help us achieve our mission. 

Bancroft’s Jacob Schaefer Center offers day and vocational programs for adults with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities and provides continued functional learning through structured activities, community inclusion, and a variety of therapeutic supports.

Artist Ali Williams and Bancroft's Linda Miller; close-up of the chickens at Jacob Schaefer Center for adults with autism and intellectual disabilities


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