AMERICAN FORK — Nestled in a shopping center, there's a haven where adults with intellectual disabilities can explore their creativity through art.
"We have discovered that a lot of our folks have these hidden talents, and they didn't know they had them, and start to identify themselves as an artist," said Trista Lawrence, TURN Community Service's director of program services, as the nonprofit held a celebration for its new art center.
The new Everest Arts and Learning Center in American Fork will give people a place to take part in art, adventure and learning activities. Those involved with the center gathered with community members for a ribbon-cutting and celebration within Everest's colorful rooms Wednesday.
With art displays created by the men and women who use the center and plenty of space for dancing, the center will give people "a wonderful, inviting, exciting environment to come and learn and to share friendship," according to Pat Boyle, TURN's director of operations.
Parents of adult children with intellectual disabilities founded the nonprofit in 1973. They first opened residential facilities in Ogden and Bountiful, and TURN has since expanded throughout Utah to offer day, residential and employment programs. Now, more than 800 people with intellectual disabilities are involved.
As the new art center buzzed with music, dancing and the sound of friends reuniting Wednesday, Kirk Jackson sat at a table with his friends and a program helper, talking — of course — about art.
Jackson, who loves painting and says his favorite colors are pink and yellow, participates in TURN's art program in Spanish Fork. He said he's excited that his friends have a new building.
TURN has two additional art centers in Utah County, but the new location will give clients and community members in American Fork the opportunity to go to a center closer to home.
Fellow art enthusiast Rachel Donoho visits Everest, which first opened in January, every day and said she always has fun when she's there, joining in a variety of activities including crossword puzzles, math, watching movies and exercising.
But the best part? "I get to see my other friends," she explained.
According to David Hennessey, TURN's executive director, some participants involved in the Salt Lake art center have sold their work in the City Center for the Arts.
"We'd love to see that happen (in American Fork)," Hennessey said.
"We've had people who sing that we didn't know they could sing. And actually even, because they do journal writing here … we've had people that we didn't know could write and formulate their writing as well as they did," he said.
The new location will help clients receive "more individualized services," as well as support in new areas of art and learning, according to TURN's director of program services.
Working with adults with intellectual abilities, Lawrence said she loves getting to see people's lives change and dreams come true.
Megan Alworth attended the celebration with her grandmother, Merle Broadbent, and her aunt, Janice Broadbent. She goes to the art center in Spanish Fork five days a week.
"Megan enjoys coming here because, one of the reasons, she has friends here. She likes to …" Merle Broadbent paused.
"Play with Michael," Megan Alworth chimed in.Comment on this story
"Her friend, Michael," the grandmother continued. "She enjoys the artwork, she has jobs to do that she's learning to stick to things and be able to be responsible."
"My friends," Megan Alworth interjected.
"Friends are one of the most important things for her," Merle Broadbent explained.
"For all of us," Janice Broadbent added.
For more information about TURN Community Service's programs or to find out how to volunteer, visit the nonprofit's website, turncommunityservices.org.