The website reads, “Discover. Create. Transform.” When you walk into Pyramid Inc., 1508 W. Sligh Ave., it is immediately evident that creative arts are not only alive and well but also flourishing at this unique nonprofit day training facility for adults with varying developmental disabilities, from mildly to profoundly disabled.
Founded in 1994, now with seven locations throughout Florida, Pyramid is a safe haven, a place to go from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday that blends classes like skill development, basic cooking, exercise and literacy training with arts, music, dance and soon theater, thanks to a recent partnership with the Patel Conservatory.
While Pyramid offers therapeutic repositioning; physical, nutritional and behavioral assistance; sensory integration; and a variety of educational classes designed to increase student independence, it is well known for its unique arts program, catering to each student’s level of ability and interest. Twice a year it showcases its talented students with a summer and holiday program.
Supported by Medicaid and the Medicaid waiver, Pyramid uses the arts to engage its students in an environment that both encourages and showcases creativity. If a student’s hand can’t quite reach the canvas, adaptive equipment is provided; an extender is added to a paintbrush so that he or she can paint a portrait.
Not only do the portraits adorn every wall in the center, but also the artists’ work is displayed for sale throughout Florida. Beginning Aug. 7, artwork, sculptures and custom-made jewelry will be available for purchase at First Fridays Seminole Heights.
Watching Shane Hoffman, art coordinator, talk about the talent of his students and showing off their work, anyone can see how proud he is of his students and how much he loves what he does.
“This job was made just for me,” says Shane. “I’ve always loved expressive art — art that is very real and comes from the heart. Here, everyone is making art that they want to, that they have to make in order to be a human, and that’s the art that I really love.”
And like the visual artist who is provided adaptive equipment, a performing artist is not hindered by four wheels. By no means does a wheelchair exclude a student from participating in dance class.
In a mirrored rehearsal space, students practice to the tune of “Eastbound and Down,” from the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.” Dancers in wheelchairs pirouette around each other while others in the cast run back and forth between them. Their choreographer watches every move, a huge smile across her face. Practice indeed makes perfect.
“Good job everyone,” says Terry Cone, performing arts coordinator. “We’ve been practicing for months.”
On Sunday, the Pyramid Players will present “At The Movies,” a tribute to movie music through song and dance at University Area Community Center, 14013 N. 22nd St., at 3 p.m. Admission is free, and donations are welcome. An hour prior to the showcase, students’ artwork will be exhibited for sale.
The Tampa location of Pyramid serves nearly 150 adults whose range of disabilities includes autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, cognitive impairment, Prader-Willi syndrome, spina bifida and traumatic brain injury.
No matter what level of disability, the staff at Pyramid make sure each day is a special one for their students.
As she receives hugs walking down the hall and acknowledges each student by name, Terry pauses.
“Some of our students come every day and some come a few days a week. We make sure everyone gets a meaningful day at whatever level they can accept it,” she says. “We’re all really excited about ‘At The Movies.’ We have costumes and we’re backed up by professional sound and light folks and it’s great fun. But it’s not just fun, it’s professional, and the students get paid for it. They can showcase themselves and show the community what individuals with what’s considered a developmental disability can really do.”
To learn more or schedule a tour, visit www .pyramidinc.org or call (813) 931-3986.