James Cansler was inspired to paint the first time he saw the work of Pablo Picasso. “Painting makes me happy,” he said. “I close my eyes and visualize myself on a beach, painting.”
Fellow artist Janet Otero finds that her inspiration “…comes from life, experience and all the things I imagine in my mind,” she said. “People don’t see my disability in my paintings.”
James and Janet are just two of more than 15 artists who participate in Aspire’s ART360, an innovative social enterprise promoting greater awareness, community and opportunity for artists with disabilities through the recognition and sale of their artwork. Artists whose work is sold share in the proceeds, earning an income as well as the joy that comes from producing unique pieces of art.
“ART360 has an interesting start”, said Aspire’s Chief Mission Officer Dina Donohue-Chase, whose office displays created by the program’s artists. This art had gone largely unnoticed until representatives of Enterprise Fleet Management visited Dina at her office. “They were so impressed with the piece, they asked if we could do artwork for them,” said Dina.
“That’s when we realized we had a business here,” said Krystine Miluski, Aspire’s Managing Director of MarketPointe. Artists took on their first challenge eagerly, creating the series of paintings that now hang in Enterprise Car Rental’s corporate headquarters.
That was just the start. From that point on, artists began working on new pieces for purchase under the guidance of Patricia Joslun, Creative Careers Manager.
Some artists work together in small groups while others prefer to paint on their own. Completed pieces can be purchased in their original format, or as prints, on mouse pads or other formats.
Commissioned works are uniquely tailored to the organization purchasing them; for example, to create the Enterprise pieces, artists rolled a car tire across the canvases to reflect the company’s business. On other pieces, artists have dragged string or rolled marble over wet paint on the canvas, adding texture and dimension.
“We purchased art that was commissioned for us”, said client Maggie Morales of the Lake County Community Foundation, “and our guests absolutely love them. When you’re purchasing art from Aspire, you’re purchasing artwork that makes an impact.”
“People are literally blown away when they see the work done by our artists,” said Krystine. “The vision for Art360 is to have art prominently displayed at businesses all across Chicagoland so people can see how good our artists are and realize the value they add to the community.”
The full gallery of art is currently on display at Aspire’s offices in Zion, Illinois. To see an online preview of the art and find out more about our artists, please go to www.art360gallery.org or contact Herb Washington, Aspire’s Chief Innovation Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.