A passion for Passion Works Studio

This artwork, titled "Flow", features imagery of a river of life with contributions from twenty-three different artists. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

This artwork, titled “Flow,” features imagery of a river of life with contributions from 23 different artists. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

For being such a small town, Athens has a spectacular selection of must-visit businesses and restaurants for newcomers to see. One particular gem is the Passion Works Studio.

The art studio was founded in 1998 and was originally located in the Atco, Inc. building. The studio relocated about five years ago and since then has remained on East State Street.  Passion Works is well known around town; many restaurants and stores offer displays of Passion Work art, such as their signature Passion Flower and various paintings and fixtures created by the studio’s artists. Uptown businesses are also familiar with many of the artists at Passion Works who visit the restaurants for lunch during their weekly hours at the studio.

The products at Passion Works are collaborative pieces of art made by artists with disabilities and local artists. An artist creates an original piece that several other artists will contribute to by adding something of their own to the work.

“We have people come here with all areas of strengths and interests,” said Christine Miles, a staff artist who has been at Passion Works for five years. “Because that’s what happens here; that’s where the emphasis is placed.”

While the majority of the artwork at Passion Works is collaborative, there are also pieces of art exclusive to original artists.

Artist Troy Goins has a knack for drawing, but also enjoys painting and ceramics. One of his drawings is included in a collection of holiday cards that the studio offers; it features an ironic picture of a snowman trying to warm himself by a fire. Goins dabbled in silversmithing while he was in high school and hopes to one day return to the practice to learn more.

Goins often visits O’Betty’s for lunch, where he draws people eating hotdogs — his food of choice from the restaurant.

Passion Works provides art for various occasions, such as formal events and weddings, from Atlanta all the way to the Czech Republic. One event the studio collaborated with in particular was Ohio Brew Week, which is a week-long festival in the summer that celebrates Ohio’s craft beers. They produced pint glasses with four different images created by Passion Works artists, two of which are the Hairy Man, the image on the studio’s sign, and a boat which appears to be floating on the waves of whatever drink fills the glass at the time.

Model castles were a popular commodity during this season for the studio. Several artists collaborated to decorate these gorgeous structures. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

Model castles were a popular commodity during this season for the studio. Several artists collaborated to decorate these gorgeous structures. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

The Passion Flower is the official flower of Athens, according to Miles. The studio has sold over 22,000 of these flowers worldwide. Production is a green project, as the studio buys the aluminum sheets which the Athens Messenger uses for printing. After the ink is cleaned off, beautiful designs and multiple colors are painting onto the sheets by the studio’s artists, cut into different shapes and screwed on to the base of the flower.

The studio uses these flowers for various projects, such as designing flowers with pink and white for O’Bleness Hospital supporters who hosted a breast cancer awareness program. The studio has also created an Ohio University themed collection of passion flower merchandise, which includes items such as pinwheels and boutonnières.  In recent months, the studio has begun producing Ohio State University themed Passion Flowers which will be featured in venues on High Street in Columbus and also in displays at Easton, Polaris and Tuttle Crossing malls.

Another talented artist is Alexis Rhinehart, who has a few works featured in Donkey Coffee’s Passion Works display, one being an image of a family working in a bakery. Much of Rhinehart’s work is influenced by Smokey Robinson. “I am in love with Smokey,” Rhinehart said, emphasizing her passion for the musician. “I know everything about Smokey.”

One of Rhinehart’s most recent works is a drawing of Smokey Robinson singing “My Baby Must Be A Magician,” which is a song he wrote for the Marvelettes to perform. This image is drawn on the top of a reused cigar box that was donated to the studio.

All of the artwork displayed in the studio is for sale, ranging anywhere from $10 to $250 considering its formality and size. The studio has a large show room that they change every two to three months. It currently features a variety of masks that the artists have created in the spirit of Halloween.

Halloween masks on display in the showroom. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

Halloween masks on display in the showroom. Photo by Sammi Nelson.

Some of the people at Passion Works are totally independent while others require assistance. While there are those who may lack in something, there is another field where they succeed, whether it be large quantities of knowledge on a specific subject or fluency in a foreign language. “People assume there’s a cognitive deficit, but there are a variety of areas that people need assistance or areas where they need to grow,” Miles said. “And boy, who doesn’t need that?”

By just walking into Passion Works studio, one is hit by a plethora of art and colors flooding his or her vision. It is entirely possible to spend hours in the studio just looking at everything, trying to absorb it all. It is arguably one of the top places to visit in Athens and a must-see.

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