CLARKS SUMMIT — The creation of a new art mural at Dino and Francesco’s Pizza and Pasta House brightened up the outdoor seating area of the restaurant, known as The Piazza, and offered students with intellectual disabilities and autism enrolled in a program at ArtWorks Gallery & Studio an opportunity to hone their skills while building confidence.
The mural, designed by instructors at ArtWorks and painted with assistance of students in the art program at the studio’s Scranton and Tunkhannock locations, depicts Italian scenery while incorporating a local flair by featuring the logos of Abington Heights and Keystone College, among other institutions and businesses.
According to Keystone Community Resources Senior Vocational Coordinator for Supportive Employment Stephanie Chunca, Dino and Francesco’s began its partnership with Keystone about three years ago.
Dino’s owners Michael and Mary Jo Yurkovic support Keystone’s mission by allowing opportunities for individuals with development disabilities to work in vocational programs.
“We reached out to see if we could bring some transition-age students in to do employment transition activities,” Chunca said. “They get real work experience and they get paid for it. They learn what it’s like to do actual work, whether it’s doing work assessments or job tryouts. They get to see what it’s like to work in a kitchen.
“It’s a nice partnership. The kids we’ve had who have done the learning experience have enjoyed it.”
While painting the mural was a big task, Kaitlin Harrison, ArtWorks manager and art instructor, felt it was a great assignment for the students.
“It’s a very large mural and it took a lot of workforce to get it completed,” Harrison said. “It was an opportunity to spread awareness for what we do. Although it was a lot of work, it was definitely a positive.”
Harrison, along with fellow teachers Margie Makowski, Delia O’Malley, Meme Bissland and Jacqueline Shattuck, designed the mural.
She belives students in the classes at ArtWorks have a chance to show off their creativity.
“Everybody has a different avenue that they want to approach in life,” Harrison said. “Keystone offers work assessments to get students into the community and, at ArtWorks, we’re able to help people pursue an art career.”
Ashley Gouldsbury, a manager at Dino’s, feels the work-based programs with Keystone benefit each party equally.
“I think it’s a nice way of giving back to the community as well as finding potential employees,” Gouldsbury said. “Someone who came in for an assessment became a permanent employee.”