Workers at Developmental Disability Workshop learn about creating art

January 21st, 2010    Author: Marsha Mundy    Filed Under: News

A group of 20 budding artists had an opportunity during the week of Jan. 11 to find out more about creating art and utilizing the artwork to benefit the Developmental Disability Workshop in Clermont County.

Leaders of the workshop invited Patty Mitchell, of Athens, a field representative of the Ohio Arts Council, to bring her experience as an art instructor to the workshop.

“I came here this week to help the sheltered workshop leaders develop an art program and to look at what they can do with that program,” said Mitchell. “The adults in the workshop have been having fun and they like this program a lot.”

With the downturn of the economy, the workshop has been exploring ways of generating more revenue and creating jobs for the workers at the same time.

Mitchell started working with the Ohio Arts Council in 1994 and soon became an artist of residence, travelling throughout the state.

"I actually 'do' art with people," said Mitchell. "Through that program I learned about the sheltered workshops and we now have 37 art studios in Ohio."

Mitchell says that those with developmental disabilities can create artwork rivaling any fine art.

"We just have to tap into the talent and get it started," said Mitchell. "Since I've been here this week, the people who enjoy doing artwork want to stay in the art room. This is something they can be passionate about."

She has given the budding artists opportunities to create art beginning with simple drawings. Those drawings have become wall hangings, colorful T-shirts and decorated corn hole games.

"We start with drawings, then we paint the fabric and transfer the drawings onto the fabric using a projector," said Mitchell. "We then cut the fabric and sew it onto background fabric creating colorful wall hangings. Basically, anything that uses fabric or that an image can be transferred to can become a work of art."

Many staff members and students are learning to use some new equipment, including a sewing machine, for the first time.

"The arts can be a great outlet for those with developmental disabilities. They can express themselves through the arts even though they may not be able to express themselves verbally," said Mitchell.

Artist Raymond Higle was very proud of the Phoenix he made for a T-shirt. He explained that the Phoenix died and was raised up from it's own ashes. He noted that the image he created was in memory of his father.

Another young lady expressed her love for panda bears and created a wall hanging of a panda. Another art student created an image of her teacher, Amanda Miller.

"Often if you have a need, the arts can fill that need. It sparks communication. As the adults are working on a project they can share what it means to them," said Mitchell.

Miller, an employee of the workshop since 2007, will be heading up the art program at the sheltered workshop.

"We are looking at places to display the artwork," said Miller. "We may possibly open a store here to display the work and sell it."

There are numerous projects that are possible using these techniques shown by Mitchell.

"There is the possibility of us making T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, greeting cards, aprons or canvas tote bags to sell," said Miller. "We are exploring our options."

"These adults can look at being an artist as a possible career," said Mitchell. "We want to share this concept with other organizations because it works so well."

To find out more about the arts and workshops, visit
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