News and Tribune


January 27, 2014

COMING INTO FOCUS: Rauch art show offers more than meets the eye in New Albany

Event brings new life to Central Christian Church’s Activities & Programs building

NEW ALBANY — Sandy Braunbeck knows better than most that things aren’t always what they first appear to be.

Braunbeck is the director of Rauch Inc., which since 1953 has provided services for people of all ages who live with a full spectrum of physical and mental disabilities. In addition to providing education for children and vocational services for adults with disabilities, the organization looks to improve their overall quality of life.

“Just like your life is not composed entirely of your work, that’s what we like to be able to offer to people with disabilities,” Braunbeck said. “They may have an opportunity to do art. They may have an opportunity to socialize with other people.”

The Studio at the Fairmont Neighborhood Center in New Albany provides both, and on Friday and Saturday at Central Christian Church’s Activities & Programs building, works of art produced at the studio were on display. Some of the pieces were on sale, while others had already sold.

“Rauch has always had an interest in the creative side of life for our clients with disabilities,” Braunbeck said. “Very often, our clients make a wonderful audience, but very seldom are they asked to participate in music, in dance, in art, in anything like that.”

But when asked, it’s obvious that they were able to rise to the challenge. Using items like toothpicks, pieces of discarded machinery, hair berets and Christmas ornaments, the works of art on display were at once fascinating and surprising. From far away a given piece could look like a cohesive painting or sculpture, but the common household items were revealed at a closer glance.

And that’s a metaphor for how Rauch wants its clients to be perceived, Braunbeck explained.

“Look beyond that first impression to see what this beautiful object is made up of,” Braunbeck said. “That’s what we want people to do for people with disabilities, to look past that first impression that you get of a person with a disability, and try to find out who they really are — what are they interested in, something about their personal life, their social life.”

The Central Christian Church staff were on hand Friday to welcome visitors to the arts show at its newly renovated A&P Building. The structure used to be home to Fitness Zone, but the church is putting it back to use as a community theater for its burgeoning performing arts department.

The church’s performing arts program has been trying to get the word out about its free community theater events, and program chair Linda Aldridge reached out to Braunbeck to see about creating a partnership.

“We were trying to find a way to get our word out about our performing arts, and what better way to do that than to pair up with someone who is also in the community and could also use a boost,” Aldridge said. “So I called Sandy and said, ‘Can we adopt you?’”

Central Christian staff member David Snow, who is heavily involved in the performing arts program, said he was thrilled to work with Rauch on the show, and hopes events like the one on Friday and Saturday help build awareness for the program.

“Hopefully the word will spread,” Snow said. “We thought we had done a good job advertising, but there’s so many people that haven’t heard about what we do, as far as opening up a community theater for free. This is an event that we can join forces with that can get the word out for both and it’s beneficial for both groups.”  

In addition to selling the artwork, Rauch is offering 10-by-17 prints of the work. Braunbeck said several pieces are on display at Primos Deli in New Albany, but Rauch is looking for other businesses wanting to help by putting the prints on display. All proceeds from the sale of both original art and prints goes back into the program.

“We’re grateful to the community,” Braunbeck said. “I’ve always said that Rauch would not be what it is today if this community had not supported it. My father was one of the initial people that helped start Rauch 60 years ago, and it’s always been dear to our family.”


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Amy Harpenau is the new director of theater arts at New Albany High School. Harpenau is a 2007 graduate of Floyd Central High School, has appeared on stage at both high schools and worked in theaters since she graduated college.


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