A celebration in downtown Brighton last night recognized the anniversary of an art gallery that displays and sells the work of artists with all kinds of abilities.

Studio West is a publicly accessible gallery that was started as an opportunity for artists with disabilities, students in the community and their allies to consign their art and earn income. The gallery is a venture of Work Skills Corporation (WSC), a community-based organization that helps individuals overcome employment barriers. The gallery’s Artisan’s Corner showcases and sells pieces created by local artists that include people with disabilities and special needs.

Studio West Gallery Supervisor Lauren Donahue says one of the things she loves about the Artisan Corner, is that when an item is purchased consumers are not only supporting an artist but also supporting a gallery that is a venture of a nonprofit, which she believes is very beneficial to the community.

Donahue says art in general and the gallery’s programs are a wonderful outlet for its members, which was echoed by some of the program’s artists attending the anniversary celebration and their family members. Artist Matt Salminen has been a part of Studio West’s program for about two years and works with a number of mediums, including ceramics and paint. He says he loves the atmosphere of the studio. Matt’s dad, Mark, says the program is excellent because it “…allows people to expand their horizons”. Some of Matt’s work was sold at Studio West’s anniversary celebration Thursday.

Michelle Acevedo has worked as Art Coordinator for WSC and Studio West for over two years now. She says the program’s success and growth is attributed to their goal to not focus on disabilities, but to instead think about the artists’ abilities. Acevedo says the gallery’s art program began with five students and now has 36 active members. Of those 36, 32 have become professional artists, which means their work is being sold, and 24 of those 32 are commissioned artists.

Julie Smith, Development Manager for WSC, says she enjoys watching the artists at work because she feels they have found their niche and love what they’re doing. She thinks it’s interesting because so many people dread going to work, but that “…these people are so happy because they get to go to work.” Smith says that’s WSC’s goal, “to help people succeed.”

Acknowledging all that Studio West has achieved, Tina Jackson, President and CEO of WSC, says the plan for the next five years is to continue to expand the gallery’s programs by connecting with more artists. WSC has been in the community for about 44 years as an employment education and job training organization. (DK)