For the participants of HEART, a nonprofit creative day program for special needs adults, Halloween is about more than candy and costume — it also means the excitement of performing on the stage and at the easel. HEART’s 10 to 12 “exceptional adult” program participants met every Tues. and Thurs. for the past six weeks working to memorize lines, get into character, and painting. At the end of every six-week cycle, everyone at HEART comes together with the assistance of community arts organizations and takes part in an original theatrical production accompanied by a visual arts show. This time around, the participants are getting into the Halloween spirit by Going Ghostbusters and channeling their inner Edgar Allan Poe.

Free and open to the public, the Going Ghostbusters and Edgar Allan Poe “heART” presentation will be held on Fri., Oct. 23 from 6-7 p.m. at St. Barnabas Lutheran Church downtown. Pizza will be provided by D’Allesandro’s and guests will have access to free Izze sodas.

The HEART participants will act out the familiar New York City rescue from paranormal forces but put their own unique spin on the 1984 classic by incorporating song and dance into the plot. After the show, guests will be able to view and purchase original pieces of visual art created by the participants in a gallery setting.

According to HEART founder Farrah Hoffmire, the participants have worked on their paintings for the past six weeks alongside student volunteers from Academic Magnet High School. Some of the art was started by the students and finished by HEART participants and vice versa. “This was our first time collaborating with high school students and we were amazed at the results,” says Hoffmire. “The students were paired with HEART participants and they created work in tandem. We definitely hope to continue this relationship with Academic Magnet’s studio art students.”

Hoffmire stresses that many of her program’s participants “fall off the cliff” after finishing or otherwise moving on from high school. “When special needs students turn 21 or graduate,” she says, “they lose entitlement to the special education services and support systems that have kept them afloat. Most of us have ample opportunities to continue to grow and develop after high school through college, work, recreational sports, and so on. Adults with special needs seriously lack these same opportunities.” 

Through events such as the heART show, “off the cliff” individuals with Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy, among others, can engage with the community. “Integration is important and beneficial to everyone involved,” says Hoffmire. “We all learn and grow from one another no matter our abilities.”

Hoffmire hopes to gain even more support this year so that the program can afford to award program scholarships to more adults in the Charleston region who cannot afford HEART’s tuition. She explains that the best way for people to show their support is to attend heART shows and consider donating or purchasing some of the participants’ art. “Attendees of the show can expect to have fun, be inspired, and celebrate in the artistic expressions of adults with special needs,” says Hoffmire. “I hope we continue to grow as more people learn about us.”