There is a storefront at the busy intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway that many a passerby is confused about (and it’s not just due to the brain freeze from Sweet Cece’s). Over the past several years businesses have come and gone on that corner strip and the only thing alerting the public to its revolving door clientele is a new sign out front. The “new” neighbor is StudioWorks, which serves as a gallery and workspace for artists with intellectual disabilities, and to make things just a tad more confusing, their official entrance faces the Eastern Parkway side. Even though they have been in this space for a year, they still get curious gawkers who cup their eyes against the glass in order to get a better look to what exactly is going on in there.
StudioWorks is one of the enrichment programs that Zoom Group offers to developmentally disabled adults in the city. Zoom Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that, according to their mission statement, “exists to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience a sense of belonging in our community.” Currently, the program serves 32 participants with an average of 16 who come to work there every day. “We just outgrew the space we had on Fourth Street. We were at the point where other artists that wanted to join the program had to wait until space opened up,” said Al Gorman, director of studio arts at Zoom Group. Al (a.k.a Albertus to the art scene in Louisville) is a sculptor who’s medium is the items that wash up on the banks of the Ohio River (artistatexit0.wordpress.com). “The staff here are not trained social workers, they are professional artists, which allows us to focus on everyone’s artistic strengths.” The StudioWorks staff includes Rebecca Crutcher (rebeccacrutcher.blogspot.com), Susie Sherrard and Josh Juett.
Artists at StudioWorks
Chimel Ford makes Pop art for the 21st century. He takes products that he is familiar with, sketches them on 16x20 paper, and then applies layer after layer of acrylic paint. Doritos bags, Skittles, Doublemint gum, and the Colonel of chicken are painted in bold colors including every small detail. Even the tiny-circled “R” representing the registered trademark symbol is painted into his artwork. Chimel will have his first solo show at StudioWorks this coming spring. View his artwork at: http://chimelford.blogspot.com.
Carol Thorp is a woman of little words, but her embroidery work speaks volumes. She takes her original drawings of assorted wildlife, and, with the help of the StudioWorks staff, transfers them to cloth in order to embroider them into colorful creations that are dense with thread.
Julie Baldyga is a pastel artist with a penchant for electronic parts and accessories. Her artwork is as much homage to engineering as it is to her friends who are depicted in her pieces. Most of her pastel works feature her friends as mechanical engineers happily working on transformers, car engines and the like. Julie says that her friends that are in pictures with a starry night or with flowers means that they are now “heavenly beings.” She grabs a coiled microphone cable beside her and asks me if I want a “puff charge.” I give her a quizzical look. “It will give you energy,” she states. Then by all means, I agree to it. Julie takes the silver end of the cable and places it on the back of my head while she makes a vrrrrr noise with her mouth. It gives me chills. I think the puff charge worked.
Mayor Greg Fischer, StudioWorks artists and
Annie Rosenberg-Sattich, President of Zoom Group
Special guest Mayor Greg Fischer stopped in to visit the studio and the artists at work. The participants were very eager to show him their work and to explain their processes and techniques.
StudioWorks is open to the public, Mon – Fri from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Artwork is available for purchase with 80% commission going directly to the artists. For more information: zoomgroup.org/studioworks.