Passion Works, 20 E. State St., has been working hard to have an eventful, meaningful summer. Working with many local businesses and organizations, Passion Works is spreading its love for art to Athens and its residents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Passion Works’ artists weren’t able to be together as much as usual; however, the pandemic did not stop them from continuing their work at home safely. Most of the pandemic involved bringing art supplies to the artists’ houses, where they could continue to work on their Passion Flowers and other projects.
Lynn Harter, immediate past president of Passion Works and co-director of the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact, said, throughout the pandemic and now, Passion Works has the ability to respond to the unique gifts and abilities of individuals and the circumstances it finds itself in.
“COVID itself has demanded a shift, as we've all moved through (the pandemic),” Harter said. “As the studio is starting to open up again, we're starting to envision what's possible as we move toward the start of the school year at Ohio University.”
Passion Works is constantly looking for ways to involve itself with Athens and its residents. In an effort to do so, the Storytelling Institute and Passion Works received grant funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation.
“It's a multi-year project that will focus on expanding and enlarging the creation, production and distribution of environmentally responsible, upcycled art projects,” Harter said. “And in doing that, foster human creativity, connection, belonging and economic employment.”
As part of the grant, Passion Works is launching a mobile art project, or MAP. The project consists of having a van allowing the studio to travel to wherever people are. A MAP project is being started with Larry’s Dog House, where Passion Works will be creating a mural by Larry’s drive-thru.
The mural will be painted by Ohio University students in connection with Passion Works’ partnership with Turn It Gold, a non-profit in the fight against childhood cancer. This is only one of Passion Works’ up and coming projects.
Nancy Epling, studio manager of Passion Works, said Passion Works had a busy year, despite the pandemic. It’s because of the constant support from buyers and the ability to find new projects to work on in and around Athens that kept them busy.
Passion Works has begun to slowly reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, and Passion Works is continuing to slowly schedule artists to return to the studio. While reopening, Ornery Vets Cafe, also a partner of Passion Works, has hosted a place for the artists to eat through donations from the people of Athens.
Patty Mitchell, executive director and founder of Passion Works, said Passion Works is looking forward to opening the studio back up for people to enjoy.
“We're going strong,” Mitchell said. “The studio is beautiful. We’re ready to get back to it and invite people in and continue to do more collaborating with our community.”
This summer, Passion Works and its artists have been working with Athens County Public Library, painting upcycled tires and creating interactive playground equipment. This project was in partnership with Turn It Gold as well.
Artists have also been upcycling clothes from local thrift stores, finding materials for their Passion Flowers and working on textiles, patches and more for an art festival in September.
Passion Works recently finished a painting for the Athens’ Conservancy at Strouds Run State Park. The art will highlight the wildlife, flora and fauna of Southeastern Ohio. Passion Works’ art will be displayed all throughout the trail, allowing people to experience their artwork while in nature.
Coming up, Passion Works will be hosting its puppet sale. Awaiting what’s next, Passion Works will be working on a project with Bagel Street Deli and the unveiling of its new dining room.
Passion Works has been working on many Athens community-oriented projects and is continuing to work with a multitude of places, including the Athens Community Center, Athens’ local pool, Rural Action and the Athens MakerSpace.
“We try to get out there because our end goal in all of this, obviously, is to have fun and be creative with each other, but to create a space where everyone feels welcome and valued,” Epling said. “Hopefully, everybody loves it so much that we can implement a studio like this and every community. That’s the end goal – that we would have a Passion Works type space in every town.”
With the fall semester approaching, Passion Works and its artists are looking forward to students coming back to campus.
On Wednesday nights, there’s a scheduled “Art Night” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone interested will be able to gather and create art. Hoping to be in the studio, Mitchell said they will have to see how they manage to bring people into the studio safely.
During Homecoming week at OU, Passion Works plans to make its float and would appreciate student help. There are many ways for students to involve themselves with Passion Works, and Mitchell said Passion Works seeks student involvement.
“People are welcome to come into the shop and see what's going on,” Mitchell said. “Our production is up, and the art’s up. So we're in a good position, and we're looking forward to what's coming next.”