Carrie Roberts admits that the arts program run by the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board hadnt changed much in 25 years.


Artists with disabilities made pottery or sewed items for sale at various gift shops run by the county agency.


But sales were lagging and so was interest from the artists, said Roberts, agency director of community employment services.


So the county board decided last year to reinvent the arts program, allowing its artists to be more creative and have a greater say in their projects. The result is the new Dream Out Loud Studio in Akron, where those artists are turning out paintings, wall hangings, tote bags and even collaborative sculptures.


The agency will hold a public grand opening/open house for the studio from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. The art studio is inside the Wedgewood Plaza at 2420 Wedgewood Drive in the Ellet neighborhood.


The Dream Out Loud Studio replaced the ClayCrafters and Custom Stitches businesses at Canal Place.


I think its a wonderful place for people to express their creativity and art, said artist Amanda Branham, 22, of Cuyahoga Falls. Im really fortunate to have a place where not only do I get along with everyone but I also get to express my art and do art and I get paid for it.


Artist Mary Woloschuk, 22, of Green, who will make some remarks at the grand opening, said she enjoys the freedom to be creative.


This is a much better place, she said as she painted a deer head on canvas. Im really happy here and I like to paint.


Such county-run art efforts are commonplace around the state, according to the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD. For example, the Athens County board has Passion Works Studio in Athens, the Cuyahoga County board runs heARTworks Gallery and Gifts in Cleveland and Lucas County operates the Shared Lives Studio in Toledo.


The Summit County artwork is available for sale at Gift Gallery sites in Ellet, Coventry Township and Cuyahoga Falls. The agency also plans to sell the items at local art shows and community fairs.


Some of the work also is on display at the county office building in downtown Akron. Stow Mayor Sara Drew has purchased three prints to hang at Stow City Hall.


Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.