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Willows Way to Host Art of Wine Fundraiser Oct. 5 Showcasing the Artistic Talents of Area Adults with Developmental Disabilities

The artists receive 100% of the proceeds from their art sales

There is no question that art can evoke a variety of feelings and emotions, both in the artist and in its audience. But for an adult with a developmental disability, learning to make a brush stroke, mix paints, focus a camera and see the world through the eye of an artist can have a profound impact.

On Thursday, Oct. 5, St. Charles-based non-profit Willows Way will showcase artwork from adults with physical and developmental challenges participating in its innovative Mentor Arts Program and St. Charles Photography Club at its fourth annual "Art of Wine" fundraising event at EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery in Chesterfield, MO. Tickets to the event cost $40 each and are available for purchase online at willowsway.org.

During the event, Art of Wine attendees will have the opportunity to sip wine and view and purchase approximately 50 original art pieces, with the artists receiving 100% of the proceeds from their art sales. Willows Way will have 11 clients exhibiting artwork at this year's event.  

"The Mentor Arts program and photography club benefit our clients in a variety of ways," said Willows Way Executive Director Joy Steele. "We often see our clients become more relaxed, confident and focused while participating in these programs. Plus it gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment when they see that they can create something from their own efforts from start to finish. The Art of Wine showcases their efforts."

The Mentor Arts Program started four years ago. Participants in the program are taught by professional artists about various artists and how to select subject matter, mix paints and use different brush stroke techniques.

Willows Way client and mixed media artist Nahoma, 38, has been in the program from the start. He uses art as another way to express himself, and has even developed a demand for his award-winning work, which he also sells online at nahomaart.weebly.com.

Nahoma, who likes to use a lot of color in his unique art style, calls himself the "star of the art show" and says he most enjoys "making other people happy through his artwork." He often uses water colors, colored pencils and even crayons to create his art, and has been known to put his signature prominently on different areas of his artwork.

Nahoma's mother and an artist herself, Nancy, said his participation in the Mentor Arts program has had a profound effect on his self confidence, plus the money he makes from the Art of Wine helps to pay his bills, she said.

"It benefits him in making him even more proud of the work that he does. He is always enthusiastic and proud to be in the art shows," said Nancy. "I have seen a positive change in Nahoma's attitude. He seems to always want more art supplies and seems excited to start a new piece of art work. He has also taken on a new challenge of art photography. He's more willing to try different art medians."

Participants in the photography club meet regularly and participate in various photo shoot outings throughout the St. Charles and St. Louis areas. In the past, the photography club has visited the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, The Butterfly House in Faust Park, Soulard Market, a horse farm and 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters. Professional photographers volunteer their time to mentor the clients and chaperone their photo shoots.

Tony, 45, has been in the photography club for the past four years. At last year's Art of Wine event, he earned $600 from the sale of his coveted photographs, and the previous year he earned enough money from the event to pay off his car.

Tony, who works cleaning buildings and lives independently with assistance provided by Willows Way, says he aspires to become a professional photographer and enjoys the mentoring and support he receives through the photography club.

"I am pretty random when it comes to taking photographs. It's basically whatever captures my eye. I bought a camera when I first started getting into the photography club and they told me I had a good eye, so I ended up taking my tax return and buying a nicer camera and started shooting with that. I have a mentor who helps me out and encourages me to shoot at different angles," said Tony. "I enjoy the outside a lot with my camera and meeting people and being recognized as an amateur photographer."

For more information about the Art of Wine event or to purchase tickets, visit willowsway.org/events. Sponsorships for the event are also available.

About Willows Way

Willows Way promotes independence and personal growth for people with intellectual and physical challenges through a variety of social-service programs. These include: Realities, which provides up to 8 hours of individualized services per week; Individualized Supported Living, which provides up to 24-hour-a-day support to allow individuals to live independently based on their needs and goals; RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement, which offers participants daily structured activities designed to promote social networking, community involvement, volunteerism and physical activities; and Project HEART, which provides stimulating, person-centered health education classes, skills training and resource information to people with developmental disabilities. For more information about Willows Way, visit willowsway.org or call 636-947-6591.

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