Local artist helps others with different abilities share unique creativity
Deborah Blackwell, owner of Studio 84, believes art should be within the grasp of all people – no matter what might try to stop them.
It was while earning her fine arts degree that Blackwell realized her love of art was closely rivaled by her desire to help.
“I discovered that I really enjoyed spending time with those with disabilities,” she explains. “And I knew I wanted to create a space where people of all abilities could learn at their own pace, in an environment that is conducive to creativity without the confines of traditional classes or workshops.”
Thus, in 2007, Studio 84 was born.
The organization was granted non-profit status in June of 2008, and in July of 2009, Studio 84 opened its doors in Whitewater, Wisconsin, with a mission to encourage everyone to achieve their artistic goals. The organization, open to all ages and abilities, operates as an art studio, gallery and store.
Blackwell “loves it all” when it comes to the arts, so naturally, she encourages freedom of expression, through all forms of visual and performing arts.
Painting, drawing, singing, dancing and creating fosters independence for those who have special needs. “It all has a calming effect and teaches participants that they are capable.”
“Caregivers say our artists leave in a better mood and are better behaved,” Blackwell shares. “One 80-year-old artist’s caregivers asked what we were doing with her because she was so happy. We said we let her paint, and she sings the entire time. Art is healing. We always say that, if therapy happens, we can’t stop it.”
Artists at Studio 84 develop self-worth creating art and earn money alongside learning life skills. They care for their art supplies, develop discipline through dance and learn to be comfortable performing on the small studio stage.
“Thirty-five artists a week are finding their place here and creating a circle of friends,” Blackwell says. “Some students are not interested in standing at a cash register all day. Our artists are just like everyone else, despite challenges, they have varied and deep interests. Studio 84 proves outdated ideas wrong. We are giving these artists an opportunity, despite cognitive delay, physical disability, mental illness —to create and to thrive.”
The studio’s online gallery provides artists a way to sell their work and earn extra money. It also fosters work with the community by giving back through art by painting picnic tables for the park. In partnership with New Beginnings, an organization to provide support and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Studio 84 artists are currently working on painting various images of the Luna Moth to raise money and awareness. The Luna Moth is a symbol in some cultures of rebirth, renewal, transformation and regeneration.
Studio 84 employs one full-time staff member and one part-time teacher. Together with interns and volunteers, Blackwell can allow others to shine thanks to generous donors.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Visit their website, Studio84inc.org to:
- Donate to help purchase art materials for the artists.
- Browse the artist-in-residence gallery to purchase artwork that supports both the artist and the organization.
- Participate in one of the many fundraisers, art shows and performances throughout the year.
Photos Courtesy of Studio 84
By Tricia Carzoli