Director has high hopes for art at The Arc

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

There’s something artistic taking shape in the pottery and art studios at The Arc of High Point — and it’s not just the art that’s being created there.
The art program itself has begun to catch people’s eyes.
“We’re creating kind of a cottage industry, where we’ll have something going on in here five days a week, eight hours a day,” explains Otis Farmer, The Arc’s enthusiastic art director since January 2012. “These individuals are producing products that can be sold, and eventually we hope they’ll wind up receiving some kind of dividends for their work.”
It began with paintings, expanded to pottery and jewelry made from clay, and soap-making will be next, according to Farmer.
At The Arc’s recent Wingfest fundraiser, more than $600 worth of participants’ handmade jewelry — and a few pieces of pottery — sold in only four hours, he says. Proceeds went back to The Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Farmer can scarcely contain his enthusiasm as he conducts a brief tour of the art and pottery studios at The Arc, which are basically two side-by-side classrooms teeming with colorful paintings, pottery creations and jewelry, all created by Arc clients.
For example, Farmer gravitates toward a realistic-looking painting of the USS Enterprise of “Star Trek” fame that hangs on a wall in the art studio. Program participant Ansel Ford created the painting, using an existing picture of the spacecraft as his guide.
“This is the most detailed piece he’s ever done,” Farmer says, adding that Ford has made tremendous progress as an artist through the program at The Arc.
“To me, the challenge is trying to reach inside of these individuals and pull that ability out where they can actually see the detail and render it. It’s just a matter of whether you believe they are capable of doing it, and then you have to give them a chance.”
Farmer remembers being uneasy about working with the special populations at The Arc a year and a half ago, but after working with his first two participants, he knew he was where he was meant to be.
“I was hooked,” he says. “I knew God had directed me here for a purpose.”
Two purposes, actually — to grow the participants, and to grow the program itself. Farmer envisions The Arc someday having a separate building solely to the arts.
“We’re limited in here,” he says. “You get three or four people in here and have things scattered out, and we’re almost in each other’s way. We need four or five times this much room at a minimum to do what I’d like to do with the art program.”
To that end, Farmer — who is also an author — plans to donate a portion of proceeds from his recently published book of fantasy fiction, “Merlyn and the Mortal’s Curse,” to The Arc. His goal is to create a foundation that will eventually have enough money to build the arts building of his dreams.
Farmer knows there will be bumps along the way, and he knows there will be naysayers.
And he doesn’t care.
“My way of thinking is this: If you would like to go to the moon, but you only achieve an orbit around the Earth, you’ve still accomplished a lot more than if you just sat there and did nothing,” Farmer says. “So I’ve always been a dreamer, and I always will be.”

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to go?

A public reading from “Merlyn and the Mortal’s Curse” will be performed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Swedebread, 2301 Sandy Ridge Road. The reading will be done by Maia Blendermann, and the book’s author, Otis Farmer, will sign copies of the book.
In addition, Oenita Blair — who designed the book’s cover — will have her children’s book, “The Prince & the Egg,” read by her husband, Ed Jones.
For more information about “Merlyn and the Mortal’s Curse,” visit http://merlynandthemortalscurse.com.