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arts encore

Building Esteem Through Art

Gallery helps artists with disabilities gain sense of self-worth by

Kit almy

A

unique art studio on the Kalamazoo Mall shows that creative talent sometimes comes from unexpected sources. MRC ArtWorks is both a classroom and a gallery open to the public, and its artists are adults with mental or emotional disabilities who work with instructors to create art in various media, including drawing, painting, collage and pottery. ArtWorks participants learn social skills as well as artistic techniques, and they make a 75 percent commission on the sale of their works. Along with these benefits to the 30 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2014

individuals, ArtWorks “shows the community that people with disabilities have talents just like anybody else,” says Chris Zeigler, CEO of MRC Industries Inc. ArtWorks is overseen by MRC Industries, which serves individuals with developmental or learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, emotional impairments and mental illness through a variety of programs, using funding from Kalamazoo Community Mental Health. MRC’s slogan is “putting abilities to work,” and its oldest and largest program, McKercher

MRC Artworks participant Nick F. works on a drawing, with paintings by other MRC artists in the background.

Services, of which ArtWorks is a part, provides job training and placement services. Some ArtWorks artists, along with other McKercher participants, also learn skills and earn an income through work on contracts with local businesses to provide bulk mailing and other packaging and assembly services. Artists come to ArtWorks with various levels of ability, and some have previous art experience. They work in separate groups,