Volunteers help Passion Works artists flower

Editor’s note: In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, reporters for the Shopping section of Court Street Stories have decided to “shop” for a local charity. What better way to say “thanks” than to find an organization worthy of a donation or volunteer work?

The holiday season brings people together.

Thanksgiving, in particular, enables family members across the United States to gather around the same table to enjoy a smorgasbord of fall-inspired delicacies, to celebrate their gratitude for one another. This Thanksgiving, Court Street Stories wants to place the emphasis on showing thanks by giving back to those in the community who appreciate it most. Passion Works Studio is one place where your presence and time is valued.

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Noah Hogan shows off his bird house, a project he has been working on for two weeks.

Passion Works Studio is a nonprofit organization— located at 20 E. State St. in Athens— that employs adults with and without disabilities as artists. And volunteers are always needed.

“We love the student volunteering aspect of this place,” says Alyssa Cardwell, the lead production artist at Passion Works Studio. “Our artists love that they get to meet new people, share their stories, artwork and a few laughs even. It’s a great connection.”

Cardwell says the studio serves three specific purposes:

1. It’s an art therapy program.

“It allows our artists to express their creativity and get their expressions out there for the community to see,” says Cardwell.

2. It gives artists a sense of individualism by offering the opportunity to make money.

“When their artwork sells here, they get 50% of the profit,” Cardwell explains.

The other half goes toward the studio to fund materials and operating expenses. Artwork can range from a painting or drawing on canvas, paper, sculptures— you name it. Another way artists can make a profit is by working on the Passion flowers that are displayed all across campus, most notably in coffee shops like Donkey and Front Room. Cardwell best describes this intricate piece of art as an involved process.

“Each step is done by one of our artists, and they get paid an hourly rate,” Cardwell says.

They work, hands on, from start to finish. All she does is drill the petals into a wooden block and the rest is the artists’ creation.

Artists also can make money earning a designer fee. Their drawing or painting can be mass produced and printed onto products like jewelry, mugs and tiles if they create a stellar image.

“When we see a strong piece like that, we think it would be cool to make multiples of it by putting it on a magnet or mug [for example],” Cardwell says. “We pay those artists a designer fee for that image so we can use it over and over again — they get a pretty decent compensation for that image.”

3. Community integration.

“Here at Passion Works we are very much involved with the community. We have a lot of art installations on Court Street, buildings at the university and the Essence of Athens, [which] pushes for this beautification of Athens through the arts,” says Cardwell.

The studio invites members of the community in to boost awareness about the group of people who are bringing this art to life. Just recently, a group of home-schooled children came in to assist the artists in making holiday cards. Together, they made cards to send to their relatives. They also formed friendships in the process.

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Artist Sarina loves to incorporate the colors pink and purple into her pieces.

At Passion Works, volunteering most times just means sitting down with artists, helping them however they may ask and then walking away having a made new friends. Building genuine relationships is what makes artists’ spirits thrive, even if it’s just for an hour each week.

Madeline Keener, junior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Ohio University, began volunteering in the middle of September 2015, initially because of a story she pitched to Backdrop magazine.

“I was working on a story for a publication, and it was about a man who is actually one of the artists at Passion Works. [Volunteering] was another way to get to know him and observe him,” explains Keener.

That story was submitted in the beginning of October and Keener still goes to volunteer every Monday she can from 8-10 a.m. She says it’s the feeling she gets after spending some time with the artists that keeps her coming back.

“After I volunteer at Passion Works, I feel happy. I have a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for these people that always welcome me with smiles and high fives,” Keener says. “It just really brightens my day to be able to just hang out and get know these artists.”

Getting started at Passion Works Studio is quite simple. Visit the website and click on the “Get Involved” tab and then select “Volunteer.” Print out the one-page paper, fill it out and then bring it into the studio for a brief orientation. You could start that very day.

“To me it’s [just about] being there for them and providing them a way for their voice to be heard and feel like they are a part of this community,” says Cardwell.

Author: Cheyenne Buckingham

Aspiring health food and fitness writer at Ohio University in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. My work has been published in Columbus Crave and Columbus Alive magazines, Edible Columbus magazine and Backdrop magazine. I also manage two blogs that focus intently on my beat of nutrition and well-being. I strive to educate and inspire others to lead a healthy lifestyle through my writing.

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