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Art beat: Hi-Hope Center artists' work featured at St. Edwards gallery

The gallery at St. Edwards Episcopal Church is presenting a very special art exhibition titled "Yes, They Can!"

A collection of 26 pieces created by the clients of Hi-Hope Center in Lawrenceville, the exhibition is a unique facility for mentally challenged adults.

St. Edwards is at 737 Moon Road in Lawrenceville. The exhibit is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sundays.

The Hi-Hope Service Center has been meeting the needs of mentally challenged adults for 49 years. It continues to evolve, creating new programs for its clients. One of these programs has produced this exhibition of artwork.

Pam Griffin, along with volunteer Hiroko Nishiguchi, leads numerous individuals as they explore the world of art. The program draws 62 participants weekly, including four from the employment program. Seventeen of these artists are responsible for the 26 works of art on display at St. Edwards.

There are four art classes daily from Monday through Thursday available for Hi-Hope clients. In addition, an outing to places of special artistic interest happens Fridays.

"Never assume they can't do something," Griffin said, stating her basic philosophy. "Let them try. If it really doesn't work, change to a new project. All people can succeed at and find satisfaction from some form of art."

All of the work at St. Edwards is for sale, and each piece includes a suggested donation price. The works are mainly acrylic paintings on canvas, but there are also five hanging sculptures.

Griffin has been working with Hi-Hope clients for three years. She previously has worked with the Department of Family and Children Services and Annandale Village in Suwanee.

"We focus on the individual," Griffin said. "We don't do group projects. The clients are learning to do a little more each day on their own. We currently have three artists that are able to create detail that they couldn't do before. Now they come in with their own ideas, and they are very motivated."

The five hanging sculptures are the result of Nishiguchi's help and creativity.

"This is free style art," Griffin said. "Hiroko cuts Styrofoam into shapes, and the clients embellish the shapes with nails, paint and glitter. Whatever we have lying around, we recycle."

Hi-Hope would appreciate the donation of any materials that can be used in this program. This includes acrylic paint, canvas, Styrofoam, large foam pieces, interior house paint and any craft supply items. To make a donation, visit hihopecenter.org or call 770-963-8694.

For more information about the gallery at St. Edwards Episcopal Church, call 770-963-6128.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.