Friendship Heart Gallery & Studio, an extension of Friendship Community, is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit creative arts Studio for Adult Artists, 18 years of age and older, with Intellectual Disability and Autism celebrating personalities and talents through free expression and collaboration. Since 2007, we have been encouraging the Artists to share their innermost thoughts, feelings and dreams with the world through their creativity. Each day we honor our vision statement of Expressing Capabilities.
Over sixty unique Artists work with professional instructors and volunteers, in addition to visiting community artists, to create and sell artistic masterpieces while developing a sense of purpose, value, freedom and joy. We offer instructional art classes five days a week at two separate Studio locations using various techniques and both traditional and unconventional media.
It has been a long but immensely fun road to where we are now and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for us! Thank you for growing with us since 2007 and we hope you continue to grow with us in the future!!
Read below to learn how we grew from a single room to two separate professional Studios and two Gallery retail locations!
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In 2007, the initial concept of the Heart Studio began in a small room in the lower level of the Agape building on Friendship Community's main campus. 12 Friendship Community Individuals expressed interest in painting and socializing; thus a small club was formed. The room was stocked with various supplies and media, including acrylic paint, markers, colored pencils and assorted craft/multimedia materials. The first finished products included painted glass vases, wooden toys and original canvas designs.
Pictured below, left: Heart Artists left to right, Tim D., Mary Lou G., Connie W. and Barry G., enjoying their new space.
Pictured below, middle: Heart Artist from left to right top, Martha H., Denise M., Barry G. and Tim D.. Bottom, Mary Lou G..
Pictured below, right: Heart Artist from left to right top, Patrick R., Fred F., Keith L., Janice S. and Neal B.. Left to right bottom, Tim G. and Amy B..
In 2008, the small club in Agape started feeling a bit cramped with more Individuals wanting to attend. It was then decided that a new Studio space needed to be acquired to accommodate all of the current Artists and the others who wanted to join the fun! A larger Studio space was found on Main Street in Ephrata and so the official move began.
Following the move to Main Street, we not only got an official name for our small club, "The heART of Friendship Art Gallery", but we also gained a few new members, bringing us to 18 incredible Individuals. This was our first opportunity to truly showcase the talents and creative abilities of the Heart Artists as the Gallery exhibitions introduced new life and ideas to the downtown Ephrata scene.
Pictured below, left: Heart Artists and Team Members at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Studio & Gallery
Pictured below, middle: Heart Artist Bob showing off his masterpieces in the new Gallery.
Pictured below, right: Heart Artists creating in the new spacious Studio.
Eager to be a part of the downtown Lancaster arts scene, in September 2013, we decided to both relocate our thriving Studio and Gallery to our current location on North Water Street and to rebrand to "Friendship Heart Gallery". In addition to an exciting retail opportunity, this new blank canvas of Studio space offered more room for everything; with over 70 Heart Artists participating, more space was needed for Artists to move freely, keep their supplies in order and create a safe space to dry artwork. It was at this location that we also transitioned from our club status to an official licensed Day Services program; still maintaining a club two evenings per week.
We are proud of our current Gallery as it features updated lighting and movable walls, in addition to housing an individual professional portfolio for each Artist. We have expanded our retail items as well to include jewelry, notecards and home décor from our Primitives by Kathy Collaborative Collection. With the outpouring of positive support from our local community, the Heart Artists have exhibited in numerous businesses throughout Lancaster City and surrounding areas as well as worldwide locations!
With the Covid-19 pandemic, things had to be modified in order to keep the Heart Artists safety as a number one priority. The Lancaster City Studio had to close down, as many other businesses, and virtual classes were researched and implemented. While this didn't quite replace the in-person Studio lessons, it did suffice until the Studio could safely open its doors again in January 2021. At this point, the name transitioned slightly to "Friendship Heart Gallery & Studio", showing that the Gallery and Studio were two separate and exciting things happening at once!
At its reopening, however, the Lancaster City Studio still looked and operated a lot different than it had before. Where there used to be long, shared tables for the Heart Artists to create at, now stood individual desks with the ability to raise to standing and incline so Heart Artists didn't need to remain in uncomfortable positions to create their masterpieces. This change also included updated storage for art supplies in order for things to be organized and easily accessible for the Heart Artists.
Unfortunately, with the good also comes the not-so-good. When the Lancaster City Studio originally closed its doors in March 2020, the evening club had to close its doors for good. With staffing shortages and licensing, the Tuesday and Thursday evening clubs were not able to reopen when the day-time Studio did.
We did have some incredible growth during this time of transition, though. Please see below section about the E. Oregon Studio to learn about how our one downtown Lancaster Studio turned into two separate Studio locations - The Lancaster City Studio and the E. Oregon Studio!
Pictured below, left: Heart Artists receiving instruction in the new large Studio space.
Pictured below, middle: Heart Artists and Team Members at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Gallery & Studio.
Pictured below, right: The new spacious Gallery space.
Pictured below, left: A full class actively participates within the Studio (2019).
Pictured below, right: The Studio redesign to safely accommodate Heart Artists on a modified schedule (2021).
Based on the success of the downtown Lancaster location, we decided to open a second retail Gallery on April 24, 2019 at our Human Resources Office location on Bloomfield Drive. This space offers an intimate gallery feel without the hassle of downtown parking and is perfect for those who live in the Lititz / Manheim area as we offer the same selection of items for purchase at the main Gallery location.
Pictured below, left: The main exhibit wall in the Gallery.
Pictured below, right: The storefront for the second Gallery location and Human Resources department.
Word about the Lancaster City Studio had been growing and more Individuals were interested in becoming Heart Artists but the Studio could only support so many Artists with the Covid-19 safety precautions in place. Friendship Community leadership and Studio team decided that a second Studio location would open up more artistic possibilities so a search for a new facility began - leading them to Shalom, the furthest building on Friendship Community's main campus. This building used to house part of Meaningful Day Academy which, unfortunately, had to close its doors permanently in 2020. It was a chance for new life to be brought into the building and much needed renovations and upgrades.
In October 2021, the renovations were underway to change the home-like setting into a functional Studio space. This included removing and refinishing wall, tearing up the outdated carpet and replacing it with vinyl flooring, updating the lighting, building a new supply room and offices and installing noise panels. This was a huge undertaking but, thanks to a large grant from the Edith L Trees Foundation, the Friendship Community maintenance team was able to successfully complete this project by March 2022. With this project completion, the new Studio got an official name - the E. Oregon Studio.
The E. Oregon Studio wasn't able to open its doors right away though. With it being a state-funded day program, it needed to be officially licensed through the state of Pennsylvania in order for Artists to be able to attend. Between submitting proper documentation and having the state come out to do an official walkthrough inspection, this process took almost 10 long months but finally, the E. Oregon Studio was state approved!
With the holidays right around the corner, leadership felt it was best to open the E. Oregon Studio after the 2023 new year - with the official opening date of Monday, January 9th, 2023. This entire opening week was filled with such excitement as both established and new Heart Artists walked through the front door to experience artistic growth. This expansion in the Studio program meant that more Artists were able to go from one day in the Studio per week to multiple days depending on their schedules. It also meant that the Heart Artists would be able to venture into more hands-on mediums. The E. Oregon Studio will be able to offer pottery classes with the help of the new kiln, Lancaster City Studio was able to receive a few new film cameras and supplies to offer film photography classes, and both Studio locations will be able to provide weaving classes through various sized looms.
"It is such a thrill to welcome Artists to the E. Oregon Friendship Heart Studio. The Artists arrive each day with so much enthusiasm. It is truly a wonderfully creative and positive environment. We look forward to growing the program and welcoming new Artists at both locations." said Friendship Community's Day Services Coordinator, Crystal Freund. We cannot wait to see how both the Lancaster City Studio and the E. Oregon Studio grow and where the Heart Artists creative journeys take them!
Pictured below, left: The E. Oregon Studio renovation progress as of October 13, 2021.
Pictured below, middle: The E. Oregon Studio renovation progress as of November 19, 2021
Pictured below, right: The E. Oregon Studio renovation progress as of February 4, 2022.
Pictured below, left: The E. Oregon Studio is ready for Heart Artists to arrive on January 9th, 2023
Pictured below, middle: Heart Artists left to right, Charles G., Dan K., Vince W. and Mary Lou G. work in the E. Oregon Studio.
Pictured below, right: The E. Oregon Studio paint supplies in the supply room.