Grandview Art Studio Features Works by Artists With Disabilities

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(Photo: The Open Door Studio)
(Photo: The Open Door Studio)

Their styles range from primitive to painterly…realistic to abstract. They work in paint, clay, paper mache, fiber and textiles. Some artists at the Open Door Art Studio in Grandview are just starting out, while others have developed a devoted following.

Despite their many differences, this group of artists also has something important in common.

Open Door Art Studio Director Courtney Yoakum fondly remembers the gallery’s humble beginnings in the back room of a conference center where it served eight people. This summer the Studio moved to it present location a 67-hundred square foot former warehouse on Goodale Boulevard where sixty people come to ply their artistic talents. The front serves as an art gallery where colorful artwork adorns bright, white walls;  the back houses the studio outfitted with long work tables and chairs.

The artists are men and women of various ages, races and levels of talent. But Yoakum says they have one thing in common.

“The individuals who attend here, we refer to them as studio artists, are all individuals with various degrees of developmental disabilities and physical disabilities.”

Click here to see more work from artists at the Open Door Art Studio.

Studio artist Paula Lasky says crearting art has changed how she feels about herself and her life.

“I feel worth something, feel like what I’ve done is worth something. I feel accomplished.

Yoakum says Open Door is a working art studio. Whatever theraputic value the artists derive from their work is an unintended dividend. She says for Laskey and the other artists who work in the studio creating and selling artwork is one of only a handful of ways people with disabilities can earn money.

“Individuals with developmental disabilities have had a slow growth at jobs that are available to them. A lot of people may know about a sheltered workshop setting. There’s stuff called piecework. So a lot of individuals with developmental disabilities unfortunately may have an income of thirty dollars a month. That’s really normal.”

Yoakum says 60 percent of the proceeds of art sold at the Open Door Studio go to the artists, the other 40 percent is used to replenish art supplies. The goal she says is to sell art and to foster  the creativity of the studio artists.

“There really are no limits. Our tag line is ‘Expression without limitation.’ It’s very much individualized and self taught and it’s about their personal expression and what they want to do and how they want to use the mediums. It’s an amazing body of work.”

Studio artist John Emanuele has created a three-dimensional piece.

“This is my goat Victor. He’s made out of cardboard and papier mache, wet papier mache.”

Ceith Purifoy creates little houses out of clay.

“This is my original masterpiece.”

Question: “And you made it in two pieces?”

“Yes one on the top and the bottom.”

Question: “Can you put things in there?”

“Maybe.”

Charles Poe makes masks and puppets using fabric and a sewing machine.

“They sold two masks and one puppet. Puppets sell for like thirty dollars and the masks they sell for twenty dollars each for that.”

Cat Lynch is an artist in her own right and one of a handful of art facilitators who assist studio artists. She has worked at the Open Door Art Studio for only a couple of months. But already she says the experience has changed her.

“This is the best job of my life. I get excited to come to work. I get excited to get up in the morning.”

The Open Door Art Studio celebrates its Grand Opening on Saturday, November 12th.

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