Janesville65.6°

Whitewater center a place for community to engage in art

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Kayla Bunge
November 30, 2009
— At the front of the room, looking out to the street, Stasia Wilson gingerly swirled a paintbrush between blobs of blue, black and white acrylic paint and created a unique shade of rainy sky blue.

Wilson, 26, of Whitewater, who has cerebral palsy and uses a head stick to handle a paintbrush and other art tools, dragged the brush across the paper and started work on a dreary downtown scene.


In the middle of the room, at a large work table, Cody Cropp carefully cut triangular shapes out of white paper and glued them to a piece of patterned wallpaper.


Cropp, 7, of Fort Atkinson, mixed black and white acrylic paint and applied the dark gray color to the base of the mountains, the centerpiece of his mixed-media landscape.


It was a typical night at Studio 84, 121 W. Center St., a nonprofit arts center that focuses on the creative abilities of all people: An experienced painter worked on a project during open studio time while a beginning artist learned about using paint, oil pastels and markers to create a one-of-a-kind picture during a class.


‘Inherently an artist’

Studio 84, which opened in July, has been a dream in the making for more than 10 years. Mother-daughter team Deborah Blackwell and Katherine Fincutter envisioned a place where people of all ages, races and abilities could explore their creative sides.


“Everybody is inherently an artist on their own. We just have to draw it out,” Blackwell of Delavan told the Gazette as the pair were working on getting the center up and running.


Studio 84 caters to all people but puts an emphasis on serving people with physical and cognitive disabilities.


“(Art) takes them from a disabled person to a creative artist,” Fincutter of Whitewater previously told the Gazette.


Community members explore music, dance, theater and the visual arts through regular classes and special workshops. Others, including local artists and college art students, use open studio time to work on projects or rehearse.


Blackwell and Fincutter allow students to make their own decisions and work at their own pace. They believe that giving people such autonomy boosts self-esteem, promotes independence and fosters acceptance of differences.


But the women also want to challenge students, teaching them new concepts or techniques based on what the students are interested in doing. The women said those personalized “lessons” can spark students to more freely and deeply explore their creative abilities.


‘Open and receptive’

Studio 84 has filled a niche in the Walworth County arts scene. Dozens of people have stopped by the center since it opened in the summer and several have signed up for classes or workshops.


“The community has been really open and receptive,” Blackwell said. “It’s been wonderful. We’ve had a lot of interest. People have been coming in just to see our space and then coming back for classes or open studio.”


“So many people are really excited to have something like this because there isn’t anything else like it here,” Fincutter added.


Studio 84 serves as a place where the community can go not only to engage in the arts but also to appreciate the arts.


The center last month hosted an exhibit called “Unsilenced” in honor of Art and Disability Awareness Month. The exhibit featured work that expresses the struggles of living with a disability.


The center currently is holding “Art 4 Christmas,” a holiday arts and crafts sale. The center early next year will host a display of artwork by local schoolchildren.


Blackwell, Fincutter and Studio 84 board members are planning a major fundraiser called “Arts in Motion.” It will be an event that invites runners, walkers, bicyclists and wheelchair users to seek donations and get active in the name of art. The event is planned for May. Money raised will go toward studio programming.


Studio 84 constantly is changing—adapting to the wants and needs of the community, Fincutter said.


“It’s something new every day,” she said.



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