Passion Photos

Hey guys. As you can see, I’ve been focusing on Passion Works studio as the focus for my last few posts. To accompany the online news story and interview with Max, here’s some more pictures I took when I went to visit the studio. Just click the link to view the flickr slideshow. If you have any questions about the work, just let me know!




Max Wheeler

Max Wheeler, a former printmaking student at OU, currently works as a production aide at Passion Works. He helps assemble many of the products and creates popular paintings or drawings into products such as tiles and prints. He had a lot to say about what Passion Works does for the community:

How does Passion Works Studio affect Athens as a community?

I think it affects it in a lot of ways. For one, collaborative art is not present in American culture as much as it is in other cultures. It’s the idea of the single artist, the individual is valued over the group, it’s always this solo show of an artist who overcame adversity to do this thing…. Which is cool but I think a lot of time collaborative art is almost seen as cheating. I don’t see why that’s a problem and I really value art that’s made collaboratively.

Usually something really strong will come out with people who have different backgrounds and different points of view. So usually the product is stronger. Also with Passion Works, dealing with people with mental disabilities brings them into the conversation, into the community.

People tend to think that people with disabilities as seeing them as their disability. “That’s John So and So, he’s disabled,” and that’s how they view them. If they’re disabled, that’s their title almost. Here, it gives the opportunity to give people to see them as people and artists and people who make beautiful art. It’s changing the definition.

What have you learned by working at Passion Works so far?

I didn’t have much experience with people with disabilities and it’s amazing to see people who are struggling physically and mentally (working with) with art-making and they still really enjoy it. Most of them come here because they really love making art and it’s fun. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind, in whatever I’m doing. If I’m not having fun, it might not be worth it. It s okay if things are difficult, but if the root of it’s not fun, what’s the point?

What is the best experience you’ve had at the PW studio?

It’s great coming in and having the clients being excited to see me and forming those relationships with people. It’s something that as a printmaker I already really value, the collaboration and camaraderie an art studio. With them as well, it’s cool getting to be friends with people whose art you admire.

There’s a huge barrier between locals and college students, and an even bigger barrier between people with disabilities college students and locals. Any kind of involvement from people with the university, people who don’t go to school and people who have disabilities is going to be positive.

Patty Mitchell & Passion Works Studio

The quiet stretch of East State Street between Court Street and Stimson Ave. houses what is perhaps the most important institutions of the Athens art community – Passion Works Studio.

Passion Works is unlike any other studio, gallery or store in town because it serves as a “sheltered workshop” – a supportive work environment for men and women with disabilities. Three days a week, two artists-in-residence collaborate with Athens community members to create an impressive breadth of work that includes everything from jewelry, home accessories and art prints. The studio, which just recently moved from its location on Elliott Street, is not only a place for these artists to convene and create art together, but an art gallery and store as well.

Here is a video that illustrates the concept of Passion Works quite well, from the Passion Works web site.

And another video that my friend Aaron made about a particular artist’s vision:

The idea to create a studio with the intention of bringing community members together was thought up by Patty Mitchell, a local artist and field representative for the Ohio Arts Council, which is an organization that uses grant money to develop artist residencies throughout the state.


Patty Mitchell, founder of Passion Works Studio

“Folks with developmental disabilities are absolutely fascinating and really responsive, and interested in working and like being around people who like to work,” she says. “I had a brother who passed when we were both really young and he had a developmental disability, and ever since I was a little kid I decided I’d live for the both of us. If I see someone in that sit who needs some more support to be successful, I just have this urge to respond to that.”

Mitchell came to Ohio University as a journalism student and started taking art classes just for fun. However, the notion of using art as a mechanism to foster the community did not occur to her until she was offered to live at the Mental Health Center at the Ridges during her sophomore year of as an undergraduate. In exchange for room and board, Mitchell would engage in recreational activities with the patients and started to incorporate her knowledge from art classes.

“People who were really withdrawn and not speaking really opened up during the process of making work,” Mitchell recalls. “So in that moment of that period I wanted to someday make a community-based studio where people who are living on the fringe of the community would be the center of the project.”

And shortly thereafter, this dream materialized into concrete plans to make Passion Works a reality. When Mitchell joined the Ohio Arts Council in 1994, she learned how to do community-based art making in hopes of starting a sheltered workshop. In 1998, Passion Works opened in the ATCO building at the corner of Elliott and Campbell Street, a work-training center for adults with developmental disabilities. But Mitchell saw a potential problem with how the workshop was functioning.

“What was noticeable was that there wasn’t a lot of work for people,” she remembers. “So in order to keep the art going I came up with a product – the Passion Flower. I designed the product so it would create as much work and labor as possible and then it really changed the culture of the sheltered workshop as to what ideal work could be.”

This vivid, multi-colored flower birthed from scraps of sheet metal quickly became the icon of Passion Works as well as the community itself. It is the official flower of Athens and close to 20,000 have been sold throughout the country.


Every passion flower is a unique work of art.

Currently Mitchell is back in the studio for a residency that involves pairing Passion Works with OU’s Aesthetic Technology Lab in Putnam Hall. The lab, which has many high-tech resources to give a new dimension to Passion Works art, has donated $1,500 dollars to create works for a show that will be displayed in January.

“They have all the technology and need the ideas to make the best of what they have,” explains Mitchell. “We have all of these ideas, but we need the tech to really emphasize what’s going on. Together it’s an interesting partnership.”

The result of the collaboration will be mixed-media pieces that involve photographs, illustrations and the juxtaposition of many images within one work.


A collage made during the collaboration with the Aesthetic Tech Lab.

And this collaboration is the heart of what makes Passion Works successful.
“I think art connects all of us, the process of making something I can know more about you,” says Mitchell. “You can’t help but share a little bit of you whenever you make something. It’s about having a conversation and connecting.”

Halle’s Self-Portraits

Now, I I do realize that with this post I’m not following the cardinal rule of blogging, which is putting content up as soon as it happens. But this is not out of laziness, simply technical issues that I didn’t have time to deal with last week. So hopefully this movie will make up for it.

A few weeks ago I attended the opening of the senior photography majors’ show in the Cube 4 Gallery in Siegfred Hall. A handful of artists exhibited their works in the small space, and there was everything from huge pictures of dogs fighting to calm portraits of an artists’ grandmother. But the ones that really stuck out to me were some self-portraits by my friend Halle Tate. Halle is a senior photography and sculpture double major here at OU, and she had an interesting idea — to take a picture of herself every day in 2009.

She decided to choose a few portraits from her collection of thousands of photos, which can be seen here on her Flickr account.

Although some of the photos are a bit revealing, Halle says that she wasn’t embarrassed to show them because most of her friends have already seen them in class.

The most interesting thing she told me about the portraits is probably that she decided to take them because she wants to be someone else. That’s a pretty interesting concept — using pictures of yourself to be a different person. Photography can be manipulated to show anything we want it to, and it’s interesting that she decided to do this on a daily basis.

This relates to a kind of internal debate I’ve had over the course of this quarter with blogging. Having a blog is all about creating your own personal brand. Basically, making yourself look as cool as possible, even if that’s not the case. The reason why I dislike blogging so much is partly because I feel that only a handful of people can pull off “branding” themselves, and I’m definitely not one of those people. Halle says that she takes these pictures because she wants to be someone else, but ultimately this is her own private project that she did for herself before she showed it to anyone else. I think that’s important.

Even though she’s showing the work to people, she takes pictures of herself every day for her own benefit. But for bloggers, part of the satisfaction of uploading pictures of yourself every day is that other people will see you. What other people think is a huge part of it.

Basically I think that Halle’s idea is great because she did it for herself first. I think that more people need to think about that before they start any sort of project, because in these days of internet voyeurism, everyone just takes pictures of themselves and spouts off rhetoric and shares stuff so that other people think that they are cool.

I think that Halle’s work could be misconstrued as just another project to show how much people are obsessed with themselves, but I think that it’s the opposite. Nobody will look at all of her thousands of self-portraits, but it doesn’t matter. She did it for herself and admits to wanting to be someone else, but stops there. She isn’t putting up some front, just showing it like it is. And honestly, I don’t think that most people don’t have the guts to do that anymore.

Columbus Gallery Hop Part 2: Roy G Biv Gallery

Before anything else, let me apologize. I know that it’s late, and I’m just posting about my weekend right now. But considering that I covered the event last night, it’s not too too late. Right? (Professor Lovejoy, please cut me some slack! I’ve been toning and uploading and writing for at least two hours!)

Another stop on the Short North Gallery Hop route yesterday was Roy G Biv Gallery, located a little further north of Mahan, where we went first. It was actually my first time at Roy, a sweet-looking building with luminescent, frosted windows (Yeah, I’m not really the best at articulating aesthetics, obviously… but you can’t miss it!).

Roy G Biv calls itself a “non-profit gallery for emerging artists,” and definitely specializes in showing more experimental works. The opening last night was for OU art prof Matthew Friday and a local artist named Anjali Srinvasan, whose works were delightfully contrasting.

Friday’s piece was basically a huge flow chart drawn on the wall, with bottles of murky green water in the foreground. The consensus of most in the gallery seemed to be that he’s some kind of genius, but nobody could really figure out the true meaning behind the chart (at least, of the people I talked to). According to the web site, though:

Matthew Friday’s installations explore concepts of multiple histories and of transcending the binary opposition between the real and the copy.

Now, I in no way mean to make a critique about this piece of art. Just because my ignorant head can’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not good.

But the other artist, Anjali Srinvasan, had a pretty interesting idea for her exhibit. She filled two walls with rows of white tape. Under them were two substances — tumeric and cocoa, that came spilling out from under the rows when a viewer ripped off the tape to add to the installation. She also had hot cocoa set up in the lobby for visitors to drink — turning the art that they would be able to see and create into something they could also experience as a form of sustenance.


Peel back the tape to find a tasty surprise!


Hillary writes her initials in the cocoa dust.

The result of the audience participation was, quite frankly, a huge mess — all of the powder ended up on the floor with the stringy bits of tape dangling down. So basically, as the audience destroys her original piece, they are creating a new one from scratch, made from the exact same elements. Pretty awesome!


A sea of tumeric!

Overall, this weekend was pretty great. It’s nice to escape from Athens every once in a while to see what Columbus has to offer, in terms of art and every other big city amenity. I personally consider shopping a form of art, but will spare all of you from seeing pictures of the damage we did in the realm of retail. Now, it’s back to the good ol’ Athens grind — walking up hills and doing homework.

Columbus Gallery Hop Part 1: Mahan Gallery

So this weekend, I tried to do something a little different. Instead of sticking around Athens, a few friends of mine decided to hang out in Columbus and attend the Short North Gallery Hop, a 25-year-old tradition that brings thousands of people into the streets to view and buy art at more than 40 galleries and businesses-turned-galleries. It happens every first Saturday of every month, so it’s definitely a frequent and accessible event for any of us Athenians who are itching to get back to city life.

So, we trekked from Hillary’s house in North Campus all the way to Short North, a cute little area trademarked by coffee shops, expensive ice cream haunts, and, of course, art galleries.


Mahan Gallery is located at 717 N. High Street in Columbus.

The first gallery we stopped at is this cool little place called Mahan Gallery, which shows contemporary works from up-and-coming artists in Columbus and beyond. Mahan exhibits everything from painting to photography to mixed media to installations, and changes exhibitions once every month. So that means at every gallery hop, Mahan has a new collection of works to show off.

The current exhibit at Mahan is called “Trick of Light,” and it runs until Nov. 30th. Three artists — Dana Carlson, Alexis Semtner and Kate Stewart, all have unique styles with one common theme — optical illusions.


“Throughout history the trompe-l’œil technique has been used to ‘trick the eye’ by using realistic imagery to create an optical illusion. There are many tricks that can be played on the eye without having the need of a cognitive reason why. In this exhibition, that concept is explored and celebrated. As a whole, the body of work is a collection of clever pieces meant to fool perception with unfamiliar and redefined forms and ideas.”

It just so happens that the assistant director of the gallery, Kelly Cousins, has been friends with my girl Zoe for a long time. The two met back in Toledo, and she was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes about the gallery. The 25-year-old has a passion for contemporary art (especially the 90s impressionist phase) and graduated from the University of Toledo before working at Mahan. Oh yeah — she found the job on craigslist, which is pretty awesome, isn’t it?


Executive director of Mahan, Kelly Cousins, poses with her favorite work -- Dubbs Deuce by Alexis Semtner. She loves color theory!

I asked her a few things about the gallery:

What kinds of artists does Mahan look for?

We’re looking for artists right before the New York level and we try to build them up. We get mid 20s artists.
Maya Hayek is the best example. She’s done the Absolut campaign ads and pretty much every big gallery in Brooklyn wants her.

What’s the Columbus art scene like?

Columbus has a really strong art scene, actually. Thousands of people come out for the gallery hop and we have a really strong scene in general. There’s also a really good lowbrow scene, underground art with scenes and artist communes.

What sets Mahan apart from other galleries in the Short North?

We’re really the only contemporary art gallery though, so we filled a niche Columbus didn’t have before. We’re constantly changing, and that’s what’s really nice too. every gallery hop is a new opening.

Advice for up-and-coming artists?

You have to know what galleries to market yourself to. We have people come in and do watercolor landscapes of lighthouses, and that’s something we would never show.

This woman has something that shows, though…


can you spot something wrong with this picture?


CMYK Bling... for the graphic design dork in all of us.

So yeah, it was a good beginning to the night. Part two to come in a few minutes…

Athens Gallery Hop Map

So, as promised, I am keeping the theme of maps alive with this post. Here’s an interactive map that will tell you exactly where to go to see art in Athens. For such a small town, there’s a surprising amount of things to see here. So get to it!

Most of the places on the map are galleries such as The Dairy Barn Arts Center and the Kennedy Museum of Art. But something that goes unnoticed is how many restaurants and bars uptown have turned their walls into makeshift galleries that change every month. A few links are also to some notable public art, such as the mural on Congress I blogged about earlier and internatinally-known artist Maya Lin’s permanent installation piece at Bicentennial Park on West Green.

Although mostly all of the locations on this art tour are in Athens, there’s one exception — Nelsonville Square. The link provided will take you to a site that describes each gallery in the cute, quaint square of this historic town. (Some of my Nelsonville favorites include The Paper Circle and Starbrick Clay, but we’ll get to that more in a future post dedicated solely to this great collection of galleries.)

To explore the map, simply click on the links to the left to learn more about each area. I’ve included links to each location’s web site, as well as the gallery hours, addresses and phone numbers that were available.