Creative Abilities move creates new market and friendships

Marsha Sommers works on a needlework project in the new Pathfinder Services Inc. Creative Abilities studio, located at Café of Hope, 900 E. State St., Huntington. The Creative Abilities artists have been working out of their new home, which also features a gallery store, since Nov. 1.
Marsha Sommers works on a needlework project in the new Pathfinder Services Inc. Creative Abilities studio, located at Café of Hope, 900 E. State St., Huntington. The Creative Abilities artists have been working out of their new home, which also features a gallery store, since Nov. 1. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

A move by Pathfinder Services Creative Abilities has led to not only new digs, but a new market – and new friendships.

The art studio, the clients of which are artists with primarily developmental disabilities, moved from its former home on Theater Avenue after the lease ran out on its building Nov. 1, and landed at Café of Hope, a ministry of Life Church, located at 900 E. State St., Huntington. Those with Creative Abilities, Café of Hope and Life Church say it’s a partnership made in heaven.

“The Café of Hope had actually wanted us to come here,” says Sandy Wing, senior director of Community Supports at Pathfinder Services Inc. “They also offered us a lot of different community people that we could have different integration with and could make our wares – the things, the art, the crafts that we’re doing – available to the public many more hours a day than what we were able to do on Theater Avenue.”

The new Creative Abilities studio is nestled in a room between Life Church’s Champs Academy and the Café of Hope, just outside the seating area, which is available to them anytime they need it, Wing says. That also gives the artist clients a separate room to have lunch during the days they spend working at the studio.

They work at the studio from 8 a.m. to around 2:45 p.m. People may come and go, depending on whatever their interests are, such as outings that take place outside the building. Some clients also have jobs in the community and use the Café of Hope as their pickup and drop-off point.
“Life Church is also offering the folks the use of Champs Academy, so the folks are able to do some classes and exercise with other people in the community,” says Rose Mills, community integration coordinator at Pathfinder Services. “The biggest bonus to this is just our artists being integrated and being part of the community.”

Wing adds that the artists have also participated in two of the church’s “Maker’s Faires,” selling their work alongside other local artists. Creative Abilities also recently held a “Cookies and Canvas” art event in the larger space provided at Café of Hope.

“That brings different people into the facility to be able to see the different artwork,” she says. “It helps Café of Hope, and it helps Creative Abilities and the church sees it as all a part of their mission. They’ve been great to work with.”

Besides providing the facility and whatever the studio needs to accommodate the artists, Wing says the church has given the clients much more exposure to the community than they had in their former studio.

Jennifer Eller, the connections leader at Life Church, says the partnership is working out very well, and helps fulfill its community outreach mission. She says the members and staff of the church have made lots of new friends with their new building mates since Creative Abilities has moved in.

“We are very excited that Pathfinder is here,” Eller says. “The clients are a joy to have in the building. You can’t hardly even walk downstairs without getting bombarded by them. They are so sweet … it is just a perfect fit for them to be in our building, to continue the vision that we have for Life Church.”

Caroline Nolan has been an artist for about 10 years, she estimates. She says she’s happy to be creating art in the new studio and interact with her new-found friends.

“I like it very well,” she says. “They’ve got tables out there, and clear to the back they’ve got exercises. I do the exercises.”

The result of the move has also spurred more sales of arts and crafts produced by the Creative Ability artists, increasing their paychecks exponentially. Nolan has also noticed the increased pay from selling more of the pieces she creates.

“It feels a lot better,” she says.

The gallery is located in a corner of the café, showcasing the clients’ original artworks, a wide range of pieces including pottery, jewelry, wind chimes, home décor, bath bombs, needlework and sewed items and individual paintings on canvas.

The wares are also offered at reasonable prices. Purchases can be easily transacted at the Café of Hope order counter, and the proceeds go to the right place – a 75 percent commission to the artist, and 25 percent to Pathfinder to pay for the materials used to create the piece, Wing says.

“Anytime that the café hours are open they are doing the sales for our clients – for our artists – which gives us sales on maybe a Saturday or Sunday or an evening, which was not an opportunity they had before,” Mills explains, with Wing adding the artists are always very excited to get a check from the sale of their work.

The artists of another Pathfinder group, the Little River Arts Studio, located at 1152 E. State St., also have items for sale at the Café of Hope gallery, and a website, humblebuy.net/art-gallery, offers personalized gifts for purchase.