BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Many people with disabilities want to live independently, but there are limited opportunities to learn new skills especially in a depressed economy.

There is an new art program based in Brunswick that is giving people of 'all abilities' a chance to be creative and develop a potential career in the art world.

Inside this former textile mill, colorful scenes from Neil Jefferson's childhood are coming to life.

Jefferson's work is everywhere here at SunTide studios, from water colors to acrylics. Pretty incredible for someone who started his art career by painting by numbers.

'His confidence level from my perspective, has just skyrocketed. He went from from being someone who would just go with the flow, you wouldn't know he was in the room to an outspoken advocate for himself,' says Kelly Strout, an artist and founder of SunTide Studios.

Jefferson is one of 8 budding artists enrolled in the Studios Art Trek program. The program contracts with Momentum, which provides services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Students like Julie Deem learn every aspect of art from sketching, painting, mosiacs, pottery to fiber arts. Deem has wanted to be an artist all her life. Being able to put her creative skills to use is a dream come true.

'I love making things with my hands. How does that make you feel? Great, I love having Kelly she is the best teacher,' said Julie.

Another important part of the Art Trek program is teaching the artist show to curate their work, from displaying their pieces to pricing it, with the potential to display their art in a gallery or open their own one day.

'The majority of the art work is for sale here and on our website. They can potentially take their skills they learn here and do it on their own and have a profession.'

Jefferson has sold dozens of pieces, each take about four weeks to finish. But he says he never runs out of inspiration.

'I got another picture in the back of my mind right now after I get this one done. It's going to be a cowboy scene,'
said Jefferson. And saddling up for his next big sale.

Neil and Julie have donated their art work for the Robbie Foundation's Second Annual St. Patty's Day benefit which will be held on Friday March 15th. Their art will be auctioned off during the event, which begins at 5 p.m at Local Sprouts café on Congress Street in Portland. The Robbie Foundation raises money to provide children with developmental disabilities with adaptive equipment and other services that are not covered by insurance.

The artists work will also be featured in the 2nd annual Spring into Art Show in Brunswick, FridayMarch 22nd. If you would like more information you can go to their website,

Read or Share this story: