Abilities in art made possible at MacDonald Training Center

- Programs at the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa aim to empower people with disabilities.

The center has helped transform lives through skills training, employment services, and - since 2006 - art.

The training center's motto is Empowering People With Disabilities. Every year, 300-500 clients, most with developmental disabilities, work or receive job training at the center.

The center's marquee business partner is Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise’s SunPass Program. Basically, they package your SunPass units.

But when the workday ends, inspiration begins.

In the Fine Arts Studio at the MacDonald Training Center, colors mix, paints hit paper, and imagination becomes reality. 

The studio is home to the center's flourishing 12-year-old art program.

During a special session last week, pieces were created for sale at the Gasparilla Arts Festival over the weekend.

"It's like an explosion of creativity," Fine Arts Instructor Lauren Holmes said.

Her class has more than 10 artists who are part of the 35-45 regular class members at the Tampa and Plant City buildings.

The class started simply. Students were given brushes and paint and told to express themselves.

Now, it's one of the strongest programs at the center. Much of the art is sold on campus at The Joy McCann Culverhouse Fine Arts Gallery, and the center has a booth at the Gasparilla Arts Festival.

Over the weekend, there was a constant flow of traffic visiting their booth the Gasparilla Arts Festival. Nearly $7,000 of art sold. Half of that money goes back into the art program, while the other half goes directly to the artists.

"It makes me feel recognized and happy inside," artist Shannon Browning said.

Browning's Minions' paintings have become a fan favorite. During last week's class, she was working on a silhouette of a couple at sunset.

"It really is awesome to see. I mean, you start off with a blank piece of paper, all the way to way to it being framed, then put into a gallery or put into Gasparilla and then being sold. Then, you get to start making another piece, and it's just this wonderful cycle to get to see done," Holmes said.

For more information about the programs offered at the MacDonald Center, visit https://macdonaldcenter.org/.

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