Charter Artists

It is somewhat hard to believe that the Artists’ Open Studio is staging its 10th annual Visions Revealed Art Exhibit. What a wonderful experience this has been, merging the talents of artists in the community with artists with developmental disabilities.

Over the past few years, there has been a movement for “inclusion” for individuals with developmental disabilities. Simply, it is an effort to have people with disabilities be more a part of the community in which they live. This means having individuals work, live, socialize and make friends in their communities.

At Artists’ Open Studio, we like to say we have been practicing “reverse inclusion” for years. When we started the studio, it was exclusively individuals with developmental disabilities. However, in very short order we began inviting artists from the community to join us.

It has been a great success.

Art, regardless of the artist, is an expression of a person’s creativity, and creativity does not discern between individuals with or without developmental disabilities.

In 2003, I was the art teacher at Christie Lane School. A gentleman named Jim Moses, who was working at Christie Lane Industries, had a burning desire to be an artist, but no outlet for his talents. He began peppering me with questions - “Where can we find some art supplies?” - and sending me his drawings for critique and assistance.

Jim, and others, wanted to know what could be done to assist individuals with developmental disabilities who had an interest in art. It became very evident, very soon, that there were many people interested in such an outlet.

It was from Jim’s requests that Artists’ Open Studio was formed. Simply, we saw a need for services that were not being provided.

Artists Open Studio began in January 2004 as a painting studio. By fall, there were ten fledgling artists meeting weekly. Grant funds helped to provide essential supplies and in December 2005, with the support of the Huron County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Artists’ Open Studio received the status of a 501c3 corporation, and a vision was realized.

This took place at Christie Lane, where adults with developmental disabilities from Huron County receive services and support with employment and pursuit of their life goals. At that time, new initiatives around the state were bringing awareness that individuals with developmental disabilities deserve the same lifestyle opportunities that anyone else, including the fine arts.

But we weren’t done growing.

It wasn’t long after we were up and running that Jim Moses asked, “Do you have any clay? I would really like to make things with clay.”

Fortuitously, a Christie Lane staff member, Bill Young, also happened to be a gifted ceramic artist. With Bill’s help, Artists’ Open Studio opened a ceramic studio in January 2006.

From the quality of the work on display at the 2014 Visions Revealed Art Exhibit at Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center Gallery, the talent and creativity continue to bloom. This year’s exhibit is full of wonderful pieces of art created in the inclusive environment of Artists’ Open Studio.  Most of the art is for sale.

To celebrate the achievements, the artists displayed their first drawings and paintings in June 2005 in the inaugural Visions Revealed Art Exhibit. The annual exhibit has grown to include paintings and ceramic art by more than 40 Artists’ Open Studio artists, as well as fellow artists from our community.

On June 20 at Visions Revealed 2014, Artists Open Studio will honor eight of its charter artists who continue to create their unique art and inspire others with their abilities. Congratulations to Deanna Bowling, Mark Cook, Andy Kirkpatrick, Angi Lesch, Jim Moses, Tim Smith, Tammy Twaddle and Fred Wagner on your tenth annual Visions Revealed exhibit.

And, a special thank you to Jim Moses for lighting the fire for Artists’ Open Studio!

All are invited to celebrate this special anniversary exhibit from 1-7 p.m. on Friday, June 20 at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center Gallery, Norwalk High School, 350 Shady Lane Drive.

Lynda Stoneham, managing director and staff artist for painting at Artists’ Open Studio