Hamilton studio for artists with disabilities gets new focus with local operator

Allison Davis works on a painting project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. InsideOut Studios is now under a new nonprofit called Inspiration Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Allison Davis works on a painting project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. InsideOut Studios is now under a new nonprofit called Inspiration Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

InsideOut Studio, where people with disabilities create art they sell to support themselves, has a new operator that will help give it more of a local focus, officials said.

The studio no longer is run by Easterseals serving Greater Cincinnati. Stephen Smith, who had been InsideOut’s education coordinator, created the nonprofit Inspiration Studios last year, and it started overseeing the program this month. He’s now the CEO of Inspiration Studios.

The name of InsideOut will be unchanged, as will its address of 140 High St., where it has been since the fall of 2015. The Easterseals employees who worked there have remained with InsideOut, as have employees who were with Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Creation of a non-profit was a longtime goal of the county board, which started the program in 2006 and asked Easterseals to oversee it, said Kim Neal Davis, director of development and marketing.

Due to the coronavirus physical-distancing restrictions, InsideOut now works with seven artists a day, down from 15-17 daily. Some artists who used to attend once a week now go every other week.

Jay Stone works on a drawing project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. InsideOut Studios is now under a new nonprofit called Inspiration Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Jay Stone works on a drawing project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. InsideOut Studios is now under a new nonprofit called Inspiration Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“The biggest advantage is that we can be community driven,” Smith said about the local organization. “We’re not underneath a larger parent company that’s outside our area. We can really know the needs of our artists that attend InsideOut Studio, and we also have great connections with the city of Hamilton, as well as Butler County as a community.

“That’s what our main focus was — just to be a smaller and more versatile organization that builds connections locally.”

Eventually, the nonprofit may add to its services, including transportation of its client artists, he said.

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Allison Davis, 33, of Fairfield Twp., is an artist who has worked at InsideOut Studio for three years. She was a 2006 Fairfield High School graduate.

“I’m treated with respect and dignity,” she said. “They treat me like anybody else.”

Davis creates abstract paintings and also works with glass and clay.

In addition to receiving 50 percent commissions from pieces that sell, ”It has helped me a lot with my speaking skills, because I get a chance to speak to the public about our program, it’s really helped me as a whole,” she said.

The best thing about the program is “being able to create art. I get to do what I love, which not many people can say that,” Davis said.

InsideOut artists in recent years have painted dozens of fire hydrants across Hamilton. They also have worked with companies like Cohen Recycling to create a mural at the company’s Middletown headquarters, using pieces of copper and brass from the Cohen scrap yard to create a backdrop mural, with glass pieces suspended in front of it.

“I tell people all the time it’s impossible to have a bad day here,” said Neal Davis. “They are so inspiring, and just brings so much joy that it makes working for an organization like this just very fulfilling.”

Stephen Smith, CEO of Inspiration Studios, middle, talks to Evan Poleman about an art project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Stephen Smith, CEO of Inspiration Studios, middle, talks to Evan Poleman about an art project at InsideOut Studios Monday, January 11, 2021 on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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