Farmington Hills artist Jacob Barron poses beside his artwork on display at CCS in Detroit.

Farmington Hills artist Jacob Barron poses beside his artwork on display at CCS in Detroit.

Photo by Deb Jacques


College for Creative Studies exhibits work of artists with special needs

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 19, 2019

 The “Fingers” series of sculptures stands at the center of the exhibit.

The “Fingers” series of sculptures stands at the center of the exhibit.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 “Mirror, Mirror,” by artist Aislinn Wendrow, is one of the pieces contributed by artists with special needs from the Soul Studio in West Bloomfield. The pieces are part of an exhibit on display at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit until March 30.

“Mirror, Mirror,” by artist Aislinn Wendrow, is one of the pieces contributed by artists with special needs from the Soul Studio in West Bloomfield. The pieces are part of an exhibit on display at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit until March 30.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT — A new exhibit at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit is recognizing the work of local artists with special needs.

The new exhibit is highlighting art from the Soul Studio, an art studio and gallery in West Bloomfield. Fourteen artists who work at the studio have pieces on display within the Center Gallery, located inside the Manoogian Visual Resource Center on the CCS campus.

“I’ve been with Soul Studio since March, and I had taught at the College for Creative Studies in the past,” said Anthony Marcellini, the exhibition and programs manager for Soul Studio. “I knew the director of the gallery and the exhibition manager and had been trying to get them up to the studio to see it. Once they did, they were overwhelmed with what they saw.”

The exhibit will run through March 30. The gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, or by special appointment. The Manoogian Visual Resource Center is located at 301 Frederick St.

Additionally, two presentations discussing the exhibit will be offered. The first, called “The Scribbling Stage: Disability as Ability at the Soul Studio,” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Anderson Auditorium at the Walter B. Ford II Building at 460 W. Baltimore St. There, Marcellini will discuss how developmental and intellectual disabilities are understood and harnessed as abilities in disability art education.

The second is an exhibition walk-through hosted by the artists themselves. It will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, inside the Center Gallery.

“This art has been collected over two or three years,” said Jamie Reedholm, Soul Studio’s special projects manager. “The studio itself has only been open for three years. The way they were curated for this show was to focus on material exploration. That means you see a lot of different materials in the art, like yarn or paper-mache.” 

Many of the artists joined the studio after working previously with the studio’s parent organization, Friendship Circle.

“Friendship Circle, the larger umbrella organization, was started in 1994 to support individuals and families with special needs,” explained Reedholm. “The special needs population is, at times, very isolated and struggles to connect to the wider world. … We had been pairing teens with special needs children for years, and all of those children who joined when we started are now in their 20s. Many of them were feeling isolated again as adults, so Soul Studio was founded to address that.”

The studio was created to not only be a social space, but also to show the artists and the world around them how expressive, creative and successful they could be.

“We founded the studio on a lesson in the Torah that those lacking in one aspect excel at another,” said Reedholm. “We also knew we wanted an art studio so artists could display their work and make money. It’s a very freeing feeling to know you can support yourself.”

Jacob Barron, who is displaying several of his creations together at the exhibit, said the Soul Studio has provided him with new opportunities he wouldn’t have considered before.

“It felt really awesome (to have my art displayed),” Barron said. “We got to share our talent with a bunch of other people. … (My work is) wood, but I used different things like pastels and paints and drew squiggles and lines and things,” said Barron. “I added other pieces of wood after. One of the teachers suggested the idea, but it all came out of a random thought. I was really pleased with the way it turned out.”

Barron added that he hopes his work will connect with others.

“Not all art means thinking about every little step,” he said. “Sometimes art can be having a random thought and putting it all together. What I like about abstract art is many people looking at the same piece but each can see something different.”

Marcellini and Reedholm said the pieces in the show will impress anyone who views them.

“It’s very materially vibrant,” Marcellini said of the exhibit. “It’s large-scale, very colorful and densely packed with energy. I would say it’s better than most art from any other group of artists. … We opened the exhibit on (Jan. 31), and even though the school was closed, we still got a good crowd. A lot of people from Detroit’s art scene showed up and were talking about the exhibit for days after.”

“The art isn’t good because it was made by artists with special needs; it’s just good,” added Reedholm.

Besides providing an attractive display for the art community, the organizers of the exhibit say it is a wonderful experience for the artists and perhaps only the beginning of a long relationship with art for several of them.

“The work is so fearless, and the process of getting to this point had a lot to do with confidence-building,” said Marcellini. “Because it’s a social space, it encourages their ability to do something now. We don’t tell people not to scribble, we tell them to scribble louder or to try and scribble in clay. We want them to experiment, and I think that helps them a great deal.”