Submitted: The Two Sides Team August 15, 2012
Springfield’s newest art shop follows an unusual business model. Not only does it sell craft projects created from recycled paper, it employs people who sometimes have trouble finding jobs.
August 14 2012
by Nathan Vickers
Springfield’s newest art shop follows an unusual business model. Not only does it sell craft projects created from recycled paper, it employs people who sometimes have trouble finding jobs. It seems like Art Inspired can make just about anything out of recycled materials. Nearly everything in the store comes from something someone else that would have gone to the dumpster. But what makes Art Inspired such a unique business are the people who work there. Taigan Brown is on her third week working at Art Inspired. Brown said she is already learning the craft of turning recycled paper into pulp, and turning the pulp into colored stationary. “Usually we try to get certain colors that might go good,” she explained as she tore up paper for the blender. “But it still comes out like an odd color.” She’s even learned enough to help teach the others a thing or two. “It looks pretty good,” Brown said as formed a paper mold. “But sometimes if you squeeze the sides you get bubbles. Like many of the employees at art inspired, Brown experiences a developmental disability. She got the job with the help of Shelley Muilenburg, a case worker from Arc of the Ozarks. Muilanburg said this job is the perfect fit. “She’s very artistic,” Muilenburg said. “She’s really enjoys crafts. They’re trained and pushed to their limits and learn.” But it wasn’t an easy process. Many businesses are wary of hiring people with disabilities. “They don’t know,” Muilanburg explained. They always think the worst and they just don’t realize the capabilities people have. They see the disability and that’s it.” But the business model at Art Inspired is to employ unique workers, to create unique works of art. The shop started as a project of Drury University’s Students In Free Enterprise, or SIFE. One of the consultants was Sarah Montgomery, who said everything fell into place to create a sustainable business that helped the earth and people with trouble finding jobs. “It was perfect to be able to bring it full circle,” Montgomery said, “and have the creative outlet on the other side.” And a creative outlet is just what Taigan Brown seems to like about working there. And she said she’s excited to keep making a living doing something she enjoys. “We’ve made handmade cards and I’ve done some of those,” she explained. “I’m still waiting to do some more but I’ve done some of those.” Art inspired is a business that started as a student project at Drury University. Some consultants from Students in Free Enterprise helped get it started. They say in the future they might even be able to make furniture out of recycled paper.