‘A second home for our artists’: Hamilton studio reopens for special needs adults

Artist Brett Garrett of Hamilton consults with InsideOut Studio art education coordinator Stephen Smith on his painting. The studio for special needs artists re-opened this week after closing for two months due to the coronavirus. Brett recently placed third in the statewide “Art & Soul” exhibition for developmentally and intellectually diverse artists. (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

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Artist Brett Garrett of Hamilton consults with InsideOut Studio art education coordinator Stephen Smith on his painting. The studio for special needs artists re-opened this week after closing for two months due to the coronavirus. Brett recently placed third in the statewide “Art & Soul” exhibition for developmentally and intellectually diverse artists. (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

A unique artists workshop and store, which was closed due to the coronavirus, has reopened in downtown Hamilton and is again serving as an outlet of creative expression for special needs adults.

Earlier this week the InsideOut Studio welcomed back about 50 developmentally and intellectually diverse artists as a social enterprise of Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati.

The studio, which is at 140 High Street, was conceived by staff at the Butler County Board of Disabilities in 2006 as an outlet for artists with disabilities to create, market, and earn income from their artwork.

Both agencies worked collaboratively on the studio reopening plan, along with officials from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, said the studio’s Retail and Marketing Manager Kim Neal Davis.

“The studio is like a second home for our artists, so they are very excited to see their friends and start creating again,” said Neal Davis. “We have put a lot of work into rethinking the studio space so the artists can express themselves creatively while also maintaining a safe, healthy environment.”

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Davis said the artists working at InsideOut create art in a variety of media, including glass, clay, paint-on-canvas, and more.

The store has recently expanded partnerships with other Hamilton businesses to produce complementary products such as soap dishes for Lahvdah, candle holders for Petals & Wicks, and even beer steins for Municipal Brew Works.

“We’ve been closed for more than two months, so the artists have a lot of commissioned work that they’ll be able to get started on,” Neal Davis said. “The support we’ve received from local businesses, the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and our customers during this closure means so much to us and reinforces what a great community we are part of.”

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Michael Beauchat, spokesman for the Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati, said “when someone comes into the boutique, I think they are first struck by all the color and variety of the art.”

“Then they learn that it’s all being made right in downtown Hamilton by developmentally and intellectually diverse artists, and it makes the artwork so much more meaningful to them. The studio is also a community. The artists have built so many friendships by coming to the studio, just like we all do through our jobs,” said Beauchat.

Neal Davis said “the artists are so excited to be back in the studio.”

“They’ve missed their friends, and they’re eager to continue making artwork so they can earn their paychecks. We had several commissions come in right before their return, so they’ve been working hard to get those completed and to customers,” she said. “Even with masks on, we can see their smiles.”

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