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Studio 810 features products by disabled artists

Downtown Las Vegas’ young art district seems to be continually acquiring new galleries. But one of the newest is fundamentally different from the rest.

That would be Studio 810 — at, appropriately enough, 810 Las Vegas Blvd. South. What’s unique about it is that the art is created by the developmentally disabled people served by Transition Services Inc., a 10-year-old nonprofit that serves 220 adults.

Sally Rothfuss, Transition executive director, said the gallery was born almost of necessity.

“We had quite a lot of individuals that were quite severely disabled,” Rothfuss said. “We were really challenged to find work that was interesting to them and that eventually was meaningful, whether that was because they liked doing it or it was a saleable item or a saleable service.”

Rothfuss said the program started small. About six years ago, some of the budding artists were involved in a project making handmade paper, which eventually led to handmade greeting cards.

“Then we got more serious about it, because there was a lot of interest from people,” she said. Transition hired Angela Esler-Whelan to serve as studio manager and to help “polish” the projects and coordinate production. They began selling the products at local art fairs, and interest grew even more.

“So we said, ‘OK, we’re ready for a retail store,’ ” Rothfuss said.

The store, she said, also has enabled Transition to have more interaction with the community. Transition is considered a community training center, similar to the more visible Opportunity Village and Easter Seals, and has five sites across the valley. People are always welcome to visit the sites, she said, but they’re not actually set up for the public.

“This site is, totally,” she said. “You can walk in and learn how we make paper, how our bath products are made, see somebody working on their own art project.”

The artists are happy to provide minitours, she added.

“All the people working there are, by and large, people who have graduated from one of our other sites, who have good social skills, good art skills — something to recommend them going to the studio,” Rothfuss said.

She said the studio presents an opportunity for the people served by Transition to see if art is something they’d like to try.

“I’d like to see all people have opportunities for choices, whether it’s working for Albertsons” or in another type of work, she said. “We also knew that there were people with more severe disabilities, and it would be very difficult for them to have a more competitive job. That’s kind of the group we had in mind for the studio — so they could be known for their abilities instead of their disabilities.”

Among the other products sold at the studio, she said, are plantable thank-you notes, body butter, body spray, pet products including hand-painted pet place mats, journals and photo albums. Prices range from $1 to $20. The artists are paid by the hour; sales proceeds go back to Transition.

Rothfuss said the gallery is looking for artists who would like to donate their time teaching new skills. They also have a gallery space with opportunities for guest artists.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call 644-8418.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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