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MONTREAL, JANUARY 26, 2015– Imagine being born with a label. When a person with special needs comes into the world, society stamps them with labels that focus on their disability. They spend a lifetime trying to prove they are not defined by their incapability. In the Social Integration Services Program (SIS) of Galileo Adult Centre in Montreal-North, job one is to erase the label and empower the student.

In September 2013, the special needs students of Galileo started an art project called “an artist a month.” Every month the students learned about a visual artist and subsequently created an artwork in that person’s style.  In addition, they were taught about the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Kandinsky, Alice Neel and Andy Warhol.

One of the artists featured was Chuck Close, who also lives with a physical disability. Although he’s confined to a wheelchair, he continues to create artwork in his New York studio. The students related to him and were inspired by his perseverance. 

Said Miss Anna Persichilli: “When I introduced Chuck Close to the special needs students, one student looked at his work and said ‘we can’t paint like that! We’ll never be able to do it, it’s too hard.’” 

The S.I.S teachers of the Galileo Adult Education Centre decided to prove that student wrong, and together they created a large portrait of Einstein using Chuck Close’s system. The students were so proud and inspired by what they accomplished that they wrote a letter to the artist and sent it to the New York PACE Gallery, which represents him.  In return, art books about Chuck Close were sent back for the students. 

In September 2014 Joe Cacchione joined the school as vice-principal. He was so amazed by the Chuck Close project, he thought it would be wonderful to take the special-needs students on a trip to New York so they could see all of the paintings they learned about with their own eyes. He also suggested that a personal meeting be arranged with Chuck Close.  With the support of principal of Galileo Adult Centre Ms. Martina Schiavone and Director of Adult Education and Vocational Services Cosmo Della Rocca, the project was a go. A comedy night and dinner will take place on Saturday, February 21 (6:30 p.m.) at Il Colosseo (8658 Maurice Duplessis) in RDP. Comics Joe Cacchione, Guido Grasso singer Ana Graur will perform and music provided by Millennium. Tickets are $50. A goal of $16,500 has been established.

Mr. Cacchione, a professional standup comedian, decided the New York trip would be offered to the students at the lowest cost possible and that a fundraising program would serve as an excellent learning experience since it teaches life skills and every day challenges. Because of their hard work, the students are fully integrated at Galileo Adult Centre.   

Some of the goals of the trip include:

  • Allow the students  to experience first-hand what they learned in class such as  a real Van Gogh with their own eyes;
  • Visit world famous museums  (Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of History, The Museum of Modern Art) and landmarks covered in class;
  • Gain knowledge of another country’
  • Encourage autonomy and remove the stigma of the disabilities, showing society people with special needs are capable; 
  • Meet and greet with Chuck Close; 
  • Experience a once in a lifetime opportunity.

For more information call Galileo Adult Centre at 514-721-0120, or

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Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213