Passion Works Studio


To Inspire and Liberate the Human Spirit Through the Arts



Passion Works Studio is a collaborative community arts center located in Athens, Ohio at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. At the heart and soul of Passion Works is a core group of artists with developmental differences. People who were historically perceived as unemployable non-viable citizens, are today creating visual evidence of the depth and wealth of the creative human spirit. Offered a responsive structure, quality materials and welcoming space the artists reciprocate with wildly imaginative, beautiful creations that are fresh and approachable.

Passion Works Artists are: 

  • Designing product lines
  • Producing Passion Flowers (“The Official Flower of Athens, Ohio”)
  • Collaborating with classes/students/faculty within higher education (Ohio University)
  • Building community through collaboration with children, families and visiting artists
  • Creating public artworks
  • Installing exhibitions
  • Enhancing the experience at festivals
  • Partnering with area artisans
  • Making fantastic works of art

What is dramatic is the absolute joy that is experienced in the studio by the artists, volunteers, staff and customers. The secret sauce is creating an environment where people are encouraged to explore materials and ideas, collaborate and discover individually within a group. We all need connection and purpose to thrive and the studio respects individual expression while offering the benefit of working within a collaborative/connected environment. Creating connection for anyone who was perceived through their differences and now recognized for their strengths, talents and uniqueness is liberating. The studio’s social design has become a natural and attractive intersect for our very diverse community to come together.


Passion Works is a collaborative community arts center. Nested within the studio is our programming partner Creative Foundations ( Creative Foundations is a program that supports people with developmental disabilities through day programming and residential services. Creative Foundations supports Passion Works artists with transportation and personal supports during their experience in the studio.



Typically people who experience developmental disabilities are served within isolated environments with very little expectation for individual development. Because there is no expectation, minimal opportunity exists. Without community connection, purpose or opportunity people will fail to thrive. This is why Passion Works is dedicated to demonstrating the power of the human spirit and welcoming other communities to replicate and make their own like community collaborative spaces.

Though community art making Passion Works Studio is enriching the cultural experience, creative economy and encouraging new tourism opportunities for Athens, Ohio. Passion Works is focused on creating the richest experience possible for its members and community. We are equally passionate about opening up the experience nationally and internationally for organizations/communities. Today, Passion Works Studio is also a training center where participants witness the “Creative Abundance Model” ( and leave with strategies to encourage similar programing that respond to their own unique opportunities.

The Creative Abundance Model (“Upcycling Sheltered Workshops” Ohio University Press writers: Susan Dlouhy, Passion Works Director of Operations and Patty Mitchell, Passion Works Executive Director.) is a 12-stage framework for transforming segregated institutional spaces and programming into vibrant community-centric places. The Creative Abundance Model (featured in the PBS documentary “Creative Abundance”) focuses on 12 key concepts:

  • Granting permission and inviting exploration
  • Aligning funding and resources with programmatic goals
  • Fostering staff implementation and acceptance
  • Preparing a responsive space with the goal of exploration
  • Shifting power to the participants
  • Creating community partnerships
  • Shifting organizational culture from control and structure to responsive exploration
  • Shifting expectations to a desire for continuous improvement
  • Designing environments for specific purposes (art, music, theater)
  • Promoting continuous discovery as a vehicle for programming
  • Creating spectacle and joy
  • Sharing resources with similar programs

This responsive model has been implemented within adult day programs, extended care facilities, domestic violence shelters, schools and wherever it is invited. Community planners, business leaders, non-profit directors and more can learn how to incorporate the Creative Abundance Model into programming to enrich community development. 

The world’s largest minority, people living with intellectual disabilities, are within every community, large and small, across the globe. The world will benefit from having more spaces where people with different abilities are welcome to gather in anticipation of connection and purpose – making and sharing together toward social justice and building stronger societies.



Historically, Passion Works was a subsidiary of a government entity (Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities) and a Sheltered Workshop (ATCO, Inc.). For the first 19 years of operations, funding for the organization was supported by a combination of county tax levy dollars, product and fine art sales and grants. In 2018, Passion Works became an independent, free-standing 501(c)3 Not-for-Profit Corporation responsible for its operations. The transition has created more participation, an increase in community partnerships and more flexibility for the organization, thus an immediate need for a dramatic increase in revenue. Passion Works is recognized by Guidestar ( as a Gold Organization.



 The Passion Flower

The Passion Flower is the essence of Athens, Ohio. Since 1998 artists with and without developmental differences, from Passion Works Studio, have been making these metal sculptures from up-cycled aluminum newspaper printing plates. Adding bright color, texture and form the studio has produced and sold over 24,000 pieces nationally and internationally.

Traditionally, people who experience developmental differences have been offered very systematic predictable/assembly style work options. The design of this art product turns this notion upside-down. The design of the petal shapes were made from drawings by PW Artist Carolyn Williams, painters collaborate in the production of the flower adding texture and design through their own individual talents and interests. The color palette is consistent and each flower is a unique representation of the collective makers.

Visitors are welcome to visit Passion Works located at 20 E. State St. uptown Athens, Ohio and experience the production of the Passion Flower. Passion Flowers are available for purchase on location and through the studio’s website.