Help Group students and their families, along with Los Angeles art-goers gathered at the opening night reception of the inside/out photography exhibit at dnj Gallery, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica on Saturday, September 10.

The exhibition showcases a multi-year project aimed at providing the environment, tools and teaching to encourage students to find their creative voice though photography and writing.  At the end of each project, student’s participated in a collaborative portrait session with Help Group Senior Clinical Director, Pat Sandler. On opening night, Pat alongside project collaborator and Help Group art educator, Kelly Kotowski, were able to see the images in the gallery with the students’ families for the first time.

“Honestly it feels amazing to see the work in this space and this manner and to see the kids see it,” Sandler said. “It just makes me feel proud of them and happy that they feel proud of themselves and that their families get to see them shine in a way that they don’t always get to see.”

In one of the displays Robert, 17, explained what he saw when looking at his portrait. “A lot of people don’t know that I see the universe in another way,” he said. “I see myself as someone with a lot of untapped potential. I want the world to see the universe the way I see it.  I want them to see there is love, courage, potential, heart, soul, spirit and hope. Hope for the future.”

Yono, 17, shared her thoughts on seeing her artwork in the exhibit. “It’s really exciting to have this experience in a gallery,” Yono said. “It’s a great place to be able to express myself because it’s hard for me to express myself verbally. With art I get to show how I feel and not hold it all inside.”

Laura M., echoed similar sentiments in being able to see her son Jared’s artwork on display. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity that would be virtually impossible any other place,” she said. “The Help Group and Village Glen have just been fabulous, we’re so thankful.”

Help Group President and CEO, Dr. Barbara Firestone, said she believed the arts provide a dynamic pathway in helping foster students’ self-expression, self-discovery and creativity. “Congratulations to our remarkable young artists,” she said. “Thank you for sharing your talent, your voice and your love of art with us.”

A special thanks to Pamela Schoenberg, the owner and director of dnj Gallery, and to Corey Grayhorse, gallery manager, for helping to bring this wonderful program to the arts community.


inside/out exhibit is on display until Oct. 29, to learn more visit

Left to right

  1. Pat Sandler, Help Group Senior Clinical Director, with student participant Christopher and his mom
  2. Kelly Kotowski, Help Group art educator, Dr. Barbara Firestone, Pres. & CEO, Pat Sandler and Pamela Clark, Help Group Director Autism Schools
  3. Pamela Schoenberg, owner and director, dnj Gallery with Pat
  4. Participating student, Robert shows his portrait to his parents
  5. Participating student photographer Yono shows her artwork to Dr. Firestone.
  6. The Help Group thanks dnj for sharing its beautiful gallery space with our families
  7. Student photographer Ian with his family
  8. Pat Sandler and Corey Grayhorse, dnj Gallery Manager