By: Carolyn Wright | The LONA Gallery
Published: 2017-09-01 10:43
Date Modified: 2017-09-20 10:43
Carolyn Wright, The LONA Gallery

There is a lot of love, passion and positive energy at Creative Enterprises, not only among the staff, but it is evident among the clients they serve as well. On a recent visit, I was greeted by wide, welcoming smiles, generous greetings and even a hug or two! It may not be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but it’s a close second in my book!

Our first stop was a visit with Mashia Hague, Marketing Coordinator at Creative Enterprises as we are working on a project to develop an art show featuring Creative Enterprises artists. I was curious how she became involved with the organization and what has drawn her to work with the arts. After a successful stint as a college volunteer, Mashia was hired. She went on to say that “I’ve always been fascinated with the magical healing powers of art. But only after seeing the art house at Creative Enterprises did I truly understand just how vital art can be for the soul.”

Creative Enterprises is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to helping adults with intellectual disabilities get the job and life skills they need to maximize their potential. “Art is a great way for anyone to express themselves, but it has a particular meaning for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Leigh McIntosh, CEO of Creative Enterprises. “We have one client who came to us very angry, with limited verbal skills. Being able to express himself through his art has changed him in a positive way. He smiles and now enjoys interacting with people, and we rarely see the anger. Never underestimate the power of creativity!” As a first-time visitor to the art house, I was really impressed when I saw the artwork being produced by the clients there. It is work that definitely has a place in the broader community to be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. My business partner and I couldn’t wait to get these paintings out in front of people who will appreciate them!

LaTrecia Raffety has worked at Creative Enterprises for nine years and has served as Art Manager for the last two. With a degree in art and an artist herself, LaTreica says she was “a little nervous, never having worked with adults with disabilities. But when I met them and saw their zest for life and their genuine interest in others, I fell in love. They are such a blessing and gift to the world. I see some of them in wheelchairs, deaf, blind, can’t speak and they never fail to greet me with a big smile. I often think that if I were in their shoes, I would probably be feeling sorry for myself. But I never get that feeling from them, they always find ways to be happy and spread joy!”

When asked about the relevance of an art initiative in a program primarily geared toward job skills and employment, Mashia Haque replied, “For some individuals with disabilities, art is not just a way to express themselves, but the only way they know how—particularly for those who are nonverbal. Many of our clients use art as an escape from their disabilities, and boy, are they good at it. I don’t see a disability when I look at their work—in fact, I see a brilliant capability this is far superior to the average artist. There have been many famous artists who overcame mental and physical disabilities—Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet and Jean-Michel Basquiat, to name a few.”

I asked LaTrecia, the Art Manager what is the greatest need in your art program? Her immediate and resounding reply was “more space”! Because they have limited space to store supplies and other donated items, provide a backdrop for displaying clients completed art and of course space to work and create, they need more space. An expansion of their current building or even a larger facility is her dream!

Creative Enterprises serves approximately 150 clients in the Gwinnett area, and about 50 of them engage in the art programs. Although art has been our focus here, Creative Enterprises provides services and training for the whole person with offerings in five main areas, Art, Workshop, Greenhouse, Thrift Store and a fully licensed Cat Shelter with training in academics, fitness and nutrition, yoga, photography, cooking, gardening, job training, job placement and more. Creative Enterprises is located at 701 New Hope Road in Lawrenceville, and their newest facility is in Cumming, Georgia. I urge you to visit their website www.creativeenterprises.org to learn more about the great work that goes on here and sup-port this vital community resource. It is truly a wonderful place, where love and passion and art create magic! 

Carolyn Wright is an Atlanta native and resident of Snellville, Georgia since 1987. Carolyn describes herself as a lover of art, world traveler and a student of life. She and her sister Sylvia Culberson own The LONA Gallery located on the square in Historic Downtown Lawrenceville.