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Arts in Motion Studio uses art for inclusivity

It is easy to feel like an outsider when facing a mental, emotional, or physical disability. Anything that sets you apart or makes you different can seem alienating or isolating. 

Delight Lester has harnessed that feeling and aims to make outsiders feel like insiders through the healing power of the arts. Her non-profitArts in Motion Studio in Grand Rapids offers ballet, tap, and interpretative dance, as well as guitar, visual arts, and drama classes to people of all ages in an individualized and inclusive way. 

Lester and her studio were featured in a profile for Rapid Growth Media of Issue Media Group. Writer Zinta Aistars captures the little moments at Arts in Motion that have a massive effect on the students who attend classes there. 

That's what makes us different. That's what makes us unique," [Lester] says. "I've taken in a child as young as 9 months. Our usual age range is from 2 years old up to age 65, and many of those who are older have grown up with me. My goal is to find people's value and help them shine, and that has nothing to do with disability. We all need that.

Lester founded the studio back in 2005 in what seemed like an extremely obvious career move. She grew up as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and was raised on the values of helping others and finding solace in the arts. She has worked as an adaptive movement specialist for 30 years, and is a licensed social worker. The studio became the culmination of all of her passions, and she shares those passions with more than 100 students every week. 

Lester has had a tough life. She lost her mother to cancer when she was a girl, her marriage ended in divorce, she lost her son to a drug overdose, and she lost her home and, for a while, lived out of her car. Throughout each of her losses, art was her saving grace. And for everything she lost, she has given back to the students that attend her classes. 

People tell me I have patience. I'm no martyr. When I come home at the end of the day, I'm happy. Megan... her gift to me was to tell me she's no longer afraid of how a wheelchair might limit her. Phil was living a very isolated life; now he walks here every week. We had a young man sit here, watching for a month and a half before he got up to dance with the others.

For Lester, giving is a gift. And for those with disabilities, Arts in Motion has given them the power to embrace their differences. 

Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom