Passion Works Studios brings community members together for fall fling


Passion Works Studios hosted a “fall fling” Saturday, October 22, for community members to mingle with Passion Works artists and celebrate the autumn season. The fling consisted of live music, free food, pumpkin decorating and more!

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.

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.

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.

Passion Works holds first End of Summer Bash to engage community

Passion Works Studio held its first ever End of Summer of Bash last weekend. The event ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Festive music played, refreshments were offered while fine arts and select gifts were on sale for buy-one-get-one-half-off. But for the first time, community members could help employees build a paper-mache dragon, a homecoming parade float or draw on white bed sheets.

Cardon Smith | artist | End Of Smummer Bash | Passion Works
Cardon Smith is one of several artists who helped the End of Summer Bash.

“We thought it’d be a cool idea to get the community involved in some of our bigger art projects,” lead production artist and sales rep for the studio Alyssa Cardwell said. “People really look forward to our sales around here, and we thought it’d be good to move the sales up.”

Five artists came on Friday and two came on Saturday to create the works for the Bash. The artists, who have received services from the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, made the passion flowers with sheeted aluminum acquired from Athens News after it’s done using it to print their newspapers.

Participants could either buy passion flowers designed, sculpted and painted by the Passion Works Studio artists or they could paint their own flowers, which are the same but are white and without paint on them.

Passion Works also held a raffle with tickets costing $1 per ticket and $5 for 6 tickets, which are used to win prizes like a gift basket of trinkets and a 14-inch by 11-inch painting.

More artists and student volunteers were expected to help than attended, but Passion Works was still grateful for the help that those who came provided. Some students who did come mentioned that they were aware of the event because of resident assistants’ posting flyers around their residence halls. Cardwell advocates that RAs keep taking initiative.

“We were hoping that there would be more student volunteers,” Cardwell said. “We’re looking for more opportunities to get across to students. If the RAs can keep doing that, that would be great.”

Saturday’s overall turnout was higher than Friday’s. All in all, the therapeutic art studio raised over $1,000 over the two-day span.

Passion Works’ next big event is on Oct. 10, where the studio will enter its homecoming float in the Homecoming Parade float contest.

Passion Works around Athens

Click any image for a larger version …

Passion Works artists blossom in Athens

Paint-covered tables and chairs fill the room. Paintings, drawings and more hand-painted flowers than you can count line the walls. The studio itself is bright, warm, and welcoming. But it is the artists who really bring the studio to life.

Passion Works Studio is more than the average arts studio.  It is a central part of the Athens community that gives everyone who walks through its door a place to express themselves, no matter their physical or mental limitations. It holds a special place in the hearts of its artists, Athens residents and local businesses.

Passion Works Flowers come in all different colors and each is unique
Click the Passion Works flower to see examples of the studio’s work around Athens.

Passion Works was first started in 1998. It began as a workshop between a few artists and members of the Athens community with developmental disabilities. The program continued to grow and now serves as a day program for about 35 adults with developmental disabilities in the Athens community. The studio and its retail store are located at 20 East State St. Passion Works is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Passion Works strives to inspire and liberate the human spirit, enhance quality of life, and strengthen communities through the arts. Their mission is to provide a creative and inclusive atmosphere in which artists with and without disabilities thrive. They accomplish this by focusing on the ability of artists to change perceptions, raise awareness, and beautify our communities through outstanding works of art.

The artists at Passion Works make one-of-a-kind paintings and drawings on paper and canvas. Some also make jewelry and the studio is currently working on a totem pole carving. Some of the artists spend all day at Passion Works. Others come three days per week, while some come for only one hour per week.

“Passion Works is all about choice. People who come here come because they want to and choose to,” says Wayne Savage, Passion Works Studio coordinator.

Noah Hogan, one of the artists at Passion Works, spends his Tuesdays and Fridays in the studio.

“I draw my favorite animals and plants and nature things,” he says. “Predominantly crabs.”

Hogan, 26, also goes to ATCO, a work-training center for adults with disabilities in Athens. He will greet you at the door when you arrive and walk you out when it’s time to leave even though he has difficulty moving his legs and uses a walker. Hogan has also taken his artwork out of the studio by publishing his own set of children’s books featuring his own writing and computer artwork. He has been running Crabby ArtWorks with his mother since he wrote his first book, “Crabby Bakes a Cake,” in 2011. Hogan held a release party for his second book at the Athens Community Center in 2012.

“The Athens community is very supportive of the Developmental Disabilities population,” says Leanne Krul, a senior studying social work and intern at ATCO. Krul helps the clients learn life skills and how to advocate for themselves in order to help integrate them into the community.

ATCO and Passion Works Studio work together and many of the same individuals spend time at both. According to Savage, many of the artists come from their families’ homes, group homes and institutional settings in Athens.

The artists at Passion Works are also able to sell their artwork and get paid for any art they help to create. The artists sell their work through the retail store connected to the studio as well as online. Not only can the flowers and works of fine arts be purchased online, but Passion Works also sells greeting cards, jewelry, mugs, mouse pads, ornaments and cutting boards.

“Paintings, drawings and sculptures are sold through our retail store and gallery, and when it sells the artists that work on it get paid for it,” Savage says. “So Passion Works, whether it’s working on our projects or working on one of a kind artwork, provides artistic economic opportunities.”

Passion Works is most known for its handcrafted flowers. The Passion Works Flower is the official flower of Athens County. The idea began with a Passion Works artist who was always drawing and painting flowers. With the help of other artists, a three-dimensional flower was created based on the drawings. The flowers are made out of recycled newspaper printing plates from The Athens Messenger. The flowers used to be hand cut but are pressed out now due to demand and the difficulty of hand cutting them.

“We had to streamline the process to keep up with demand,” Savage says. “People see the flowers and they want one.”

Brittany Rios, a first year graduate student studying education, received a Passion Works flower as a graduation gift last year.

“I wanted a Passion Works flower because of what they stand for. After touring the facility where the flowers are created, I had to have one!” Rios says.

It takes about three weeks to make a flower from start to finish and typically about six adults with developmental disabilities will work on one flower.

A Passion Works Flower typically costs about $60, while other artwork from the studio ranges from $6 to $45. Passion Works has sold more than 21,000 flowers and continues to create new designs. Some of the designs include an OU flower collection as well as a scarlet and gray OSU collection.

The flowers can be found all over Athens in doctor’s offices, healthcare facilities, coffee shops, restaurants, academic buildings, and the Athens County library and at the Athens County Recreation Center. Rios also says that many of the teachers whom she works with have Passion Works flowers in their classrooms.

Court Street Coffee is one of the businesses that supports Passion Works. Passion Works flowers add a burst of color to the shop and Court Street Coffee sells the flowers as well.

The owner of Court Street Coffee, Debby Fulks, says Court Street Coffee sells Passion Works flowers mainly to promote Passion Works retail store and studio.

“We’re very proactive in the community. We work with the Athens News and right now we are in the process of painting all the Athens News boxes,” says Savage, the studio coordinator. “We also work with the city at Christmas time. We do tree toppers. This year I think we are going to do more for the city for Christmas.”

This year Passion Works hosted a family ornament-decorating event for the Athens community. Children were invited to decorate ornaments to put on the City of Athens Christmas tree at the Courthouse. After the event, the community came together on Dec. 4 to decorate and light the tree and place the Passion Works tree topper on the tree.

Passion Works recently received a grant from The Athens Foundation for $5,000, which will allow the studio to expand its programming. The money will be used to buy a kiln, glass, clay, and a potter’s wheel to kick-start a fused glass and ceramics programs.

“It’s going to very much widen the variety of the arts that we teach here and the arts that are available in our retail outlet and gallery. That’s going to produce more income for the artists and more income for the studio and it’s going to expand greatly the experience that the individuals we serve have here at Passion Works,” says Savage.

Going to Passion Works can be a life-changing experience for these artists. Savage says the artists are influenced by the chance to make money, and they also experience higher self-esteem, better manual dexterity and are able to give them a better identity.

“When someone first comes to Passion Works, they are typically shy and quiet. After they have been here for a few weeks, when a tourist or local dignitaries come in they will shout out welcoming our visitors and they will start showing off their artwork,” Savage says. “When they first start coming here they identify themselves as a disabled person, but after a short time they identify themselves as Passion Works artist.”


Hayley Ross is a junior double majoring in Dance and Journalism at Ohio University. She someday hopes to combine her passions for dance and journalism by working for an arts or entertainment magazine or in communications for a dance company. For her resume and work samples visit