Innovator of the Week: Tomiwa

The following post was written by Tomiwa, Special Olympics youth leader from Nigeria. Adeyemo makes it his mission to strengthen inclusion in his community. Check out how he #innovateforinclusion!



Art is fun, creative, and expressive and can be a useful tool for driving inclusion. This is why we planned a Unified Art Project. Through the Unified Art project, people with and without intellectual disabilities created art together and built friendships. The project was broken into three phases: a Day of Art event, Unified Art training, and Unified Art competition.


This project started with a Day of Art held on the 16th of August 2018 at Modupe Cole Memorial Child and Treatment Home, Yaba, Lagos. The participants were orientated on the ways art can be used as a tool to bring athletes and partners together to achieve common goals.


The programme was tagged “Art for All”, and in attendance was the popular Nigerian Artist Osa Seven. He talked about how art is a means by which society can be transformed for the better. Also, Adeola Oladugba, who is the Manager of Sports Programs at Special Olympics Nigeria, gave a speech about the mission of Special Olympics. He made it clear that athletes are the focus of the organization.



In order to select the people who would partake in the art training, a drawing exercise was given to the 40 participants. After the exercise, 16 participants were chosen (8 athletes and 8 partners). The selected participants proceeded to the next stage of the project, which was a 6-week Unified Art training. Two Arts Instructors from the House of Bezalel oversaw training and supervised the process.


The training for the 16 selected participants was held Thursdays and Fridays for 6 weeks starting from Thursday, August 30th. There were two parts to the training — pencil work and painting.The topics taught during the training included forms, tonal gradation, shading techniques, still life and abstract drawing, colour schemes, composition, and landscapes.


At the beginning of the training, the finalists were divided into teams comprising of two people-an athlete and a partner. The point of this pairing was to create opportunities for friendship and teamwork between athletes and partners. The methods of teaching from the instructors were very impactful, combining individual and team exercises to help the athletes understand the principles being taught. Before and after every class, we had opening and closing circles where we held discussions, engaged in fun activities, and exercised the minds of the participants. The 6-week training ended with each team working on their final project, producing beautiful art work showing what inclusion meant to them.

The Unified Art project came to an end with a Unified Art Competition and a Mini-exhibition at Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care and Treatment Centre, Akoka, Lagos, on October 12th. Tobi Bakare, one of Big Brother Nigeria 2018 housemates, attended the event and spent some time with the athletes. Participants, parents, volunteers, and partnering organizations were led to see the finalists’ artwork. The aim of the competition was for each of the Unified Art team pairs to make paintings demonstrating the meaning of inclusion. The competition lasted for 2 hours and 30 minutes and at the end, the judges picked the winners.



In conclusion, the Unified Art Project brought great pleasure to the participants. It provided opportunities for athletes and partners to learn and have fun together while also building friendships. We hope this project will continue and extend to other regions, hereby encouraging the inclusion of athletes in the society and helping them showcase their artistic talents to the world.


The 2018 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, theOffice of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects atSpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.