Supporting Artists of All Ability Levels

. March 31, 2020.
Michelle Acevedo, Creative Arts Director, providing guidance to Harrison Gagnon, 15, as he paints the first coat of a ceramic vase. Photo Credit: Miranda Keskes
Michelle Acevedo, Creative Arts Director, providing guidance to Harrison Gagnon, 15, as he paints the first coat of a ceramic vase. Photo Credit: Miranda Keskes

Artisan Corner makes being a professional artist a reality

What began as a humble “corner” in a local factory has developed into a program that now boasts over 70 associated artists. Artisan Corner is a branch of the Work Skills Corporation (WSC) whose mission is “to optimize potential.” WSC was formed in 1973 by a group of parents who wanted to help their adult children with disabilities develop skills to find gainful employment. WSC has since expanded to support all individuals with disabilities as well as veterans. This past year 1,174 people found employment through the efforts of WSC. 

Cultivating dreams

Michelle Acevedo, Creative Arts Director, began Artisan Corner through WSC in 2015, with five budding artists who were all employed in a factory and would create art during their breaks. They all had a common desire “to be a professional artist.” 

Acevedo made that dream a reality. Every Artisan Corner artist now has a professional business card and earns money each time a piece of artwork is sold. Last year, one of the paintings at the Corner was sold for $500. Many local businesses commission work such as beaded bracelets and bottle cap magnets. Ciao Amici’s, a local restaurant in downtown Brighton, commissioned 30 custom plates that are now proudly used to serve appetizers and desserts. 

A budding young artist

An example of a collaborative art project that Harrison Gagnon, 15, helped create.

An example of a collaborative art project that Harrison Gagnon, 15, helped create.

Harrison Gagnon, 15, is the youngest Artisan Corner artist. He started the program two years ago, at age 13 (the minimum age required to join Artisan Corner). He attends creative sessions bi-weekly during the school year and weekly in the summer. Harrison’s mother, Lisa Gagnon, loves the independence that Artisan Corner cultivates: “When you are empowered by independence, you find your passion.” Harrison has found his passion. He sold his first piece of art when he was thirteen: a ceramic bird. Together, he and his mother went to the bank to deposit his first paycheck.

At Artisan Corner, Harrison can express himself freely, without judgment. When working on pointillism pieces, he loves to count the colors. On one piece he created, he counted 267 red pins. Lisa loves how art is helping him develop his dexterity and focus.

Harrison’s favorite activity is making bracelets. He also loves “coloring with Michelle.” When asked if he has made many friends, he said “Yes.” An artist next to him was quick to say, “I like him a lot. He’s friendly!” His future ambitions are to continue as an artist and “live in a condo,” maybe “somewhere warm.” 

An eye to the future

Artisan Corner continues to flourish. Acevedo has a dream of creating an even larger studio to support its growing community of artists and is always looking for community support and engagement. The artists’ work is proudly displayed and available for purchase at Studio West in downtown Brighton. 

Studio West is open on Tuesday from 12-6pm and Wednesday-Saturday from 12-8pm. To learn more, visit their website at wskills.com.

To enroll as an artist or commission artwork, please call Work Skills at 810-227-4868 and ask for Deb or Todd.