Org Story: Art Enables

Very often, people with developmental disabilities are able to express themselves better through images than through words. Art Enables has used this knowledge and understanding to build a creative and diverse community of artists. Individuals with down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury, bipolar disorder, and other developmental disabilities have found a space that is both enriching and empowering. Participants are given the resources and support they need to become visual artists, and their artwork is exhibited and sold at the studio, host venues and via a web-based shop. They earn revenue from their artwork sales and are given a means to support and express themselves. The product is more than just good artwork (though there is that too); the result is a newfound sense of self-worth and confidence.

The story of Art Enables is a beautiful one – Thirty-some artists have found hope, fulfillment, and a platform to share their own individual stories with the world. But maybe the best way to understand this community is to meet a few of the artists themselves.

Sonny is a hands-on kind of guy who loves wood burning and prepping surfaces by sanding things down. He creates his own shapes and forms and has a pretty distinctive mix of design and use of color. His nickname is probably the best way to describe not only his artwork but also his personality. Usually in the morning, Sonny comes in and greets everyone with his infectious smile or a big wave.

Charles has a prodigious memory for events of historical and personal significance and speaks of them in terms of days and distance. If you’re lucky enough, you might find a piece of art with one of his conversations in it, but if not, don’t worry – the pictures he draws will tell the story of a specific place and moment, though it’s up to you to identify the location. He loves to climb mountains and fly and is very proud of having his own money, talent and artwork. It has given him a hope for the future and brought incredibly joy to his family.

Paul is like a bolt of lightning: he is directed, can work very quickly, and while he will create similar pieces based on pop culture, no two are ever the same. It’s pretty amazing watching He is especially aware of what’s happening in the studio and is often the first artist to greet visitors as soon as they step through the door. People who come to the studio without much familiarity almost always walk away with a “Paul.” His work is decorative and always in proportion to the surface he is working on. He has an intuitive sense of how things fit.

Melissa creates vibrant worlds for her characters to inhabit and it just so happens that her characters are full of color and bigger than life just like she is. She is a fan of negative space and positions her creations of ink and pencil in unexpected places within her artwork. If you ask Melissa about her life, she’ll tell you “I have a lot of nice friends.” It’s easy to tell how much she values those friendships and the closeness of family when you look at her artwork. She draws the world exactly as she would like it to be, which makes her artwork a favorite among collectors.

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