"Upcycling Sheltered Workshops: A Revolutionary Approach to Transforming Workshops into Creative Spaces."

Athens Artist Co-Authors Book About Role Of Art In Sheltered Workshops

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A local artist has co-authored a book about incorporating art and other special interests into the daily lives of those with developmental disabilities.

Patty Mitchell is known around the Athens area for her larger-than-life puppets and as the founder of Passion Works Studio. She is a firm believer that creativity is a way to bring those with and without disabilities together.

To help spread that model of living, Mitchell and Susan Dlouhy have co-authored a book called Upcycling Sheltered Workshops: A Revolutionary Approach to Transforming Workshops into Creative Spaces.

The book was published by Swallow Press, an imprint of Ohio University Press, on Monday.

According to Mitchell, she first realized the power of creativity and art with the developmental disabled population as a resident volunteer at the Athens Mental Health Center in 1986.

“When we would make art together, I could see people were really coming to life,” she said. “The really disconnected folks could sit around the table drawing and it was really magical. I decided then I would make art available to the people who are on the fringe of society so that there could be more inclusion and the entire community could benefit.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of sheltered workshops, the term refers to an organization that employs those with developmental disabilities through daytime programming. Instead of the standard routine, Mitchell believes that staff should investigate their clients’ and their own interests and incorporate those into the programming.

“It’s rethinking the potential culture of institutionalized workshops and turning them into creative making spaces,” Mitchell said. “It’s the concept of finding what interests people and what captures their attention, which can be the core of programming.”

Mitchell said that she and Dlouhy have been collaborating for over seven years. Dlouhy currently serves as the interim director of a sheltered workshop in Shelby County. Dlouhy helps on the administrative side of workshops while Mitchell focuses on the programming itself.

“She’s the one who knows the rules,” Mitchell said. “We would get to talking and she was really intrigued… She now helps organizations rethink the possibilities.”

A book launch event will be held March 17 at 6 p.m. in the lobby of the Schoonover Center for Communication. Dlouhy and Mitchell will talk about the book and the Creative Abundance Model, followed by a Q&A session and a book signing. The book will be on sale through Little Professor Book Center.