Art patrons, coffee lovers, and community leaders filled Blackbird Café Friday evening for the Opportunity Enterprises Group Show and Artist Meet and Greet. The charming exposed brick of the café walls now boasts 16 painting by Opportunity Enterprises participants. The bold acrylic pieces are more than just striking artwork; these works are created by skilled artists of the disabled community.
Janice Taylor is one of the Opportunity Enterprises participants displaying her work on Blackbird Café’s walls. She also sells her work at the biweekly market in Central Park Plaza.
“It’s amazing when I can sell stuff and make money,” said Taylor. “Its fun doing art and meeting new people. I love going to the market to sell my art. When people come in and buy my work it makes me feel good about myself. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Blackbird Café draws a diverse clientele – from students to business men and women. All these people, however, can appreciate good art for a good cause.
“This show was really a great advantage for us – a real opportunity to show our participants’ work downtown,” said Carol Loesche, the Opportunity Enterprises Art Director. “Our participants are so excited for this chance to meet new people and display their work. Art is a great opportunity for our participants to express themselves. We have fabulous art instructors who really work with them. It’s a truly wonderful environment for them to work in.”
Opportunity Enterprises has more than 200 people who participate in their art programming. Every November, they display and sell their work at the ArtAbility Show. The display at Blackbird Café gives these artists more exposure and the opportunity to sell their art to members of the community in a venue outside the annual show in November.
“I thought I could come out and support these people and see what they’re doing. It’s so important,” said art patron Mary Devries, who purchased the work of participant John Underwood. “I’m so glad they have an art department at Opportunity Enterprises. I’m just very interested in art and people with special needs. It’s great when they can come together like this, and I like to support that.”
The inspiration for this group show came when Blackbird Café owner Daniel Cook made a delivery to Opportunity Enterprises a few weeks ago. In the waiting area, he saw several pieces of art created by participants. He was impressed by the quality of the work and immediately set up a meeting with Loesche.
“Instantly, I put these paintings up and people liked them,” said Cook. “My employees were like, ‘we’re gonna buy that one and that one and that one.’ Seriously, though, by the end of the month, all these paintings will be sold. It’s good stuff.”
The artistic collaboration between Blackbird Café and Opportunity Enterprises helps build a sense of community where art – and the artists – are valued assets to the community.
“I hope we do more of these sorts of things,” said Cook. “Right now, I’m trying to focus on local artists one month at time. We don’t make anything on these shows, but we want to support the artists. If you were an actor and didn’t have a stage, what would you do? An artist needs a place to display their work. And we have wall space.”