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Creating Hope

Exhibit showcases artists with developmental differences

Photos provided CREATING HOPE Arts’ in-house artists Jennifer Diehl, left, and artist and writer Tommie Lindell, right, pose with some of their works. Lindell has written a series of stories and illustrated many of the characters.

MORRISTOWN — When you ask Tommie Lindell what she likes best about Creating Hope Arts, she smiles and says, “It’s where I found my spark for being an artist again.”

Lindell is an artist and a writer and has autism spectrum disorder. She, along with 10 other artists with developmental differences, work under the direction of in-house artist Jennifer Diehl at Creating Hope Arts in Morristown.

An exhibit of their work is now on display at The Gallery at Towngate Theater, 2118 Market St., Wheeling, through Nov. 21.

Creating Hope Arts provides an array of creative opportunities where unique talent can flourish while cultivating pride, confidence and independence as an artist.

“Mostly all of our art is positive and uplifting. So many of our clients are told they can’t or never will because of their disabilities,” Diehl said. “Through our art we just don’t paint; we listen to our clients. We adjust and help them stay positive, confident and inspire them to overcome anything thrown their way in life — not just art.”

Lindell uses her creativity to inspire others not only through her visual art but also her writing. She has written a series of stories called “The Citizens of Happy Town.” All the characters in Happy Town are “Bee’nts” (half bee, half ant) and each one has unique skills and abilities. Their primary mission? To be kind and friendly and to teach people to do the same.

“She is a great writer,” Diehl said. “She has a ton of stories. She brings them in and reads them to our other artists.”

Lindell has also created and illustrated several characters from her stories.

Diehl said they are in the process of making life-size, standup cutouts for the characters to line the halls of Creating Hope Arts. They also hope to invite school groups to visit for story time as part of their community outreach program.

Diehl said community outreach is an important part of the organization. During the pandemic, local residents helped create an outside graffiti wall. They have also engaged the Boards of Developmental Disabilities in all of Ohio’s 88 counties to create a collaborative large-scale mural and invited the public to participate in a “Tree of Life” collaborative art project, which will be auctioned as a fundraiser.

Creating Hope Arts also makes custom T-shirts and uses its wood shop to create custom wooden signs for local schools, businesses and residents.

The Gallery at Towngate is a small space gallery, located inside Towngate Theatre in Wheeling’s historic Centre Market District. The Gallery features the work of local and/or emerging artists and focuses on community engagement, inclusion and the mingling of visual and performing arts.

The Gallery at Towngate is open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday and during all Towngate Theatre events.

A church-turned-theater, Towngate is part of the nonprofit Oglebay Institute and offers entertainment almost every weekend including theater, improv, live music, children’s theater, classic films and more. A variety of acting classes are offered year-round.

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