Chicago studio offers mask-making for disabled individuals

January 25, 2014 (CHICAGO)

A local artist has created mask making classes adapted for people with different disabilities.

For many individuals with disabilities, the ability to create their own mask gives them the freedom to overcome the challenges of expressing their emotions.

Inside Out art studio is located on Chicago's Northwest Side. They sell and create all kinds of masks, as well as offer classes to children, adults with and without disabilities

Owner Jeff Semmerling is a mask artist with a strong background in theatre.

" We make masks but also all kinds of art. Art itself, the process of making art,the process of sitting together and working on a project separately yet all at the same time, that process in itself is a therapy," said Jeff.

"Working with disability children started with one individual, actually, whose mother wanted him to be doing more art, and that was about six years ago. We started discovering that there was a service that was we would really provide, and it really is not just good for the kids or the parents, it's really good for us," Jeff added.

Last spring, these young adults from Newman Family Services started coming here. Client Enrichment Manager Luke Harmon says this group has a range of disabilities.

"From intellectual to physical to having mental health issues," Luke said. "When they get into a lot of creative work is recognizing that there aren't any boundaries or anything like that, and they have complete and total freedom to express themselves."

"What'll happen is, some of them will put the masks that they make on to try and express just generally emotions or try and feel what it's like to be somebody else for a little while. So, if somebody may be having a bad day, then they might create a mask that embodies that," said Luke.

"Masks just create this special place inside our psyches," said Jeff.

To learn more about Inside Out art studio and programs offered to kids, adults and people with disabilities go to or

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