There’s a bustle within the large workspace as blank canvases give way to landscapes.
Shapeless clay finds life in the form of masks and sketchbooks transform into comic books. Tables are in no short supply as 28 artists work tirelessly among one another.
Welcome to Live Yes Studios.
Situated across the street from the Cornhusker on 16th Street, the program began during August of 2011 in an effort to teach different art forms to adults with developmental disabilities and/or mental health diagnoses. Per the organization’s mission statement, the studio “seeks to break down societal barriers and create a space where individuality is fostered.”
Working under the Resources for Human Development (R.H.D.) umbrella, the organization has sister studios in Kansas City and Omaha, among other places across the country. Many of those enrolled in Live Yes Studios also live in R.H.D. housing in Lincoln as well.
Much of the staff have a degree in either art or music while others are self-taught. Each member brings with them a specific artistic niche in which they excel and each teaches their specialty once a week.
Three times a day, members of the studio participate in classes to learn and gain a greater understanding of a variety of different artistic mediums. Students are exposed to painting, drawing and pottery as well as writing, photography, screenprinting and even music. The pieces created during these classes are eventually showcased during First Fridays at the Tugboat, where the artists earn money selling their creations.
In addition to the more traditional work, original compositions have also been sold at these group shows. With access to pianos, guitars, basses, drums and a plethora of other instruments, the studio’s music section opens up new possibilities for exploration.
With so many different areas of art for members to try, Live Yes Studios encourages each artist to expand their horizons as well as find what they excel at.
“As long as we can afford it, it’s fair game,” said Natasha Scholz, the organization’s case manager. “It’s always so exciting when we get a new member and we can see what new art form they want to bring to the table.”
However, Live Yes Studios’ repertoire doesn’t stop at art. They’ve also had a plot in the Community Crops garden for two years. The opportunity to teach about nutrition and health hasn’t been passed up either, and Spanish has also been in the diverse curriculum.
“A lot of it is teaching life skills, teaching coping skills,” Scholz said. “Sometimes, it’s not about art. Sometimes, it’s just about education.”
Scholz has been with the organization for several years, first as an intern ripping up carpet and painting walls when the studio was being built. Scholz switched her hours to part-time as she finished up her degree in art and psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in May of 2012. She now develops each of the programs that the artists are undergoing.
She is one of more than 20 staff members working at the studio. With so many different personalities and skills to work with, she said that it’s really important that everyone gels together well in order to create the best environment possible.
“The studio is a really nice outlet for a lot of folks with behavioral disorders and it teaches positive skills,” Scholz said. “Instead of punching a window you can throw paint on a canvas and then potentially sell that. Why not turn something negative into something positive instead of harming yourself?”
Live Yes Studios prides itself on its impact not only in helping its members improve artistically, but in gaining life skills as well.
“There was man here that, when he first started, only spoke in ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Scholz said. “He would hardly write. He was refusing to eat and refusing to walk. He was refusing life. Seeing him slowly start drawing these little lines and to see those lines turn into shapes and then to see those shapes turn into people was incredible.”
After that, the man began to walk again and his drawings began to mirror himself, both in likeness and in color.
“Soon, he turned into the character of the studio,” Scholz said. “Everyone just loved talking to him. Seeing those types of impacts has made me very grateful for what I have. It also makes me just want to continue to help people express themselves. Many people in the studio don’t start with that ability. But, art gives it to them.”