Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 16, 2013

ARC-CSS allows paintings to be put on cards

Nicole Dominique
Effingham Daily News

TEUTOPOLIS — There's an artist in everyone - and ARC Community Support Systems consumers have been getting in touch with theirs over the last few years.

The Developmental Training Center began offering a painting class in 2004 and recently made a connection with MBS Communications, allowing some of the consumers' paintings to be put on greeting cards and placed in the card catalog.

A percentage from the sale of ARC's ArtAbilities collection will go back to the art program, which is helpful in the wake of funding cuts.

"We, like all nonprofit organizations, are struggling," said Barb Kessler, coordinator of Developmental Training. "But the art program is well worth every penny."

About 32 center consumers are enrolled in the program, with a few more on the waiting list. Each student gets about an hour each month with either Becky Marcussen or Jan VonBokel, instructors for the program. Occasionally more time becomes available when artists cannot make their session.

Each time slot has two students and one instructor.

The artists have been selling their work as cards for about three years with the help of Lisa Koester of Creative Designs, but when the opportunity for a larger outreach arose, they were ready for it.

MBS Communications is as excited for the card line as the students.

"What we decided to do ... was to figure out a way to work it (their art) into our line," said Becky Doty on behalf of MBS.

She and Mary Antrim co-own the business, and have enjoyed getting to know the ARC artists through their paintings.

Art Abilities cards are now available in the monthly MBS catalog. The back of each card includes a picture of and a small fact about the artist.

"We give all of them a little bit of spotlight," Doty said.

Artists are of varying ages and abilities. Many like to paint landscapes and birds, although the instructors encourage fresh ideas.

Some students start by repeatedly painting symbols.

Marcussen shared the story of a student who only drew letters and numbers. One day she put a picture in front of him.

"It was like a light bulb came on," she said, remembering how he was able to imitate the image.

Most students use a newspaper or magazine photo as a starting point. Some have even brought in vacation pictures as a reference.

Their artwork has been displayed and sold around the community, including the Helen Matthes Library, Joe Sippers Cafe and the Effingham Artisan Fair.

"Whether it sells or not, this is a success," Kessler said. "When the catalog comes in, they're like, 'Oh my gosh, we're famous!' They put a lot of work into this."

Family and community support have been crucial for the artists.

Heather Stroud loves the class, and spends her free time drawing and painting on her own.

"I really like art so much," she said. "I feel really good."

Kessler enjoys seeing her consumers so happy with the artistic opportunity.

"The art program is one of the best things we've ever done," she said.

Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at nicole.dominique@effinghamdailynews.com.