Art Studio Helps Adults With Disabilities Turn Their Passion Into A Career : NPR Ed : NPR

Jamila Rahimi works at Art Enables on a Monday afternoon. Rahimi, who has been working at the studio since 2006, creates the structure of her drawings with permanent marker before adding color.

Beck Harlan/NPR


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Beck Harlan/NPR

Jamila Rahimi works at Art Enables on a Monday afternoon. Rahimi, who has been working at the studio since 2006, creates the structure of her drawings with permanent marker before adding color.

Beck Harlan/NPR

Teenagers often have to wait years to do the things they want to do — drive, drink, vote. But for Mara Clawson, it was something different.

As a teen, Clawson loved making art — specifically drawing with pastels.

So at 14, she reached out to Art Enables, a studio, gallery and vocational program in Washington, D.C., where she really wanted to make that art. But Art Enables requires its members to be at least 21 years old.

That didn’t deter her. During the seven-year wait, Clawson stayed focused.

She and her parents kept in close touch with the gallery, and she submitted work to its exhibits as a special guest. After about 2,500 days, Clawson finally joined the ranks.

Meet some of the artists at Art Enables, an art studio, vocational program and gallery for artists with disabilities in Washington, D.C.


Maia Stern/NPR
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Art Enables is a lot like any other arts studio — it has big windows and a paint-splattered sink, it’s quiet enough to hear a paintbrush clink the sides of a water glass, and, of course, it’s full of art.

Those things attracted Clawson, but she was also drawn to the artists who make up the studio — artists, like her, who have a disability of some kind.

Clawson, who still works in pastels but has branched out into digital art, was born with familial dysautonomia, a neurogenetic disorder that affects her autonomic nervous system.

Art is my life,” she writes on her website, and Art Enables is one place she engages in that life.

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