Arc clients become artists

By Rachel Roubein Times Staff Writer

The quiet whoosh of paintbrush meeting paper was audible as Greg Allen used soft strokes to fill in the outline of a man’s head in bright orange.

Richard Hinton broke away from his careful concentration on a paint-by-numbers dog to steal a look at Allen’s work. “Hey, Greg,” he said. “You’re good.”

Richard Hinton and Trish Driver paint at The Arc Carroll County in Westminster Wednesday.

It was a familiar scene inside The Arc Carroll County, one that happens twice a day, at 9 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. Heads were down painting and art instructor Jennifer Auchey was roaming the area, stencils in hand, helping.

The room inside The Arc Carroll County is sectioned off. There’s the portion where clients of The Arc, a day program for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, learn life skills.

In a corner on the left side is the makeshift art studio, with its five tables covered in white paper, some graffitied with scribbles of markers and crayons. One day, instructors hope to have a classroom of their own, said Sharon Smith, director of development.

But for five years, clients have frequented the art classes without a studio. They’ve become familiar faces, as the ones who love painting and drawing and coloring come every day, sometimes twice, like Amy Dietrich. She loves painting, Dietrich said, then corrected herself. She really just loves any kind of art.

On Wednesday, Auchey pointed to an area of finished work, paper plate ornaments with pipe cleaners serving as extra decoration and paintings of fish. She rummaged through the completed artwork, showing off bags and handkerchiefs stenciled with designs of a sun or a moon or a star.

Waving to the completed artwork, Floyd Westbrook, The Arc’s program coordinator, said he was impressed.

They are creations others have been impressed with, too, as some Arc clients’ handiwork is hanging up in the Carroll Nonprofit Center, sometimes in the Carroll Arts Center and two pieces grace the walls of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-District 8, Mount Airy office, according to Smith.

Pictures and papier-mache creations line The Arc Carroll County’s hallway with the name of the artist adorning each piece, a sticker that also shows the price.

That’s because all artwork is for sale, and the proceeds go straight to The Arc client artist.

They’ve had some sales, Smith said. Pieces from a show called Art of The Arc held at Carroll Arts Center sold in March 2012. And they hope to digitize their artwork, so the designs can be sold on T-shirts or mugs or greeting cards on websites like  

“People look at their art,” Smith said, “and not their disability.”

Since Trish Driver was young, she’s worked on art projects. It’s always been a passion, and it’s one that The Arc art classes have further fueled. She’s looking forward to having a painting or a piece of pottery or a drawing sell, she said.

On June 26, she had already painted the outline of the heads of two men in pink. Painting the middle purple, that was the hard part.

“You have to be concentrating when you’re doing the edging, and you can’t look up or you’ll mess up,” Driver said, then stared down at the brush, following her own advice.

Erin Strevig, taking a quick break from painting the outline of a man’s head green, said she attends the art class for one reason: “Makes me happy.”

Donations sought

The Arc Carroll County is in need of supplies for its art classes. Donations of canvases, acrylic paper, water color paper, frames, paints, brushes and other art supplies can be made by dropping them off at the main entrance of the building, located at 180 Kriders Church Road in Westminster.