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Canton’s Silo Arts Studio facilitates creativity for adults with disabilities

In the heart of Downtown Canton’s arts district, an art studio space buzzes with activity. Inside, up to 20 artists on any given day work on their latest creations – painting, drawing, sketching and researching.

Since opening its doors in 2017, Silo Arts Studio has welcomed adults with disabilities to grow their artistic talents, learn new techniques and build relationships with the community.

“We’re an artist collective,” said Todd Donnelly, Silo’s owner and facilitator. “I find the artists and make sure they have the materials that they need and the space that they need to express whatever they need to express.”

Silo Arts Studio owner and facilitator Todd Donnelly
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
"If we can help them connect to other people who are trying to get in touch with their talent and their ideas and their art, ultimately the idea of disability doesn't matter," said Todd Donnelly, Silo Arts Studio owner and facilitator.

With a background in performing arts, Donnelly knew the importance of building friendships among other creatives and having the freedom to express oneself. He just hadn’t seen many opportunities where adults with disabilities could take themselves seriously as artists.

“It was more a question for me, ‘What if these people could really focus on that?’” Donnelly said.

In addition to providing individual spaces for each artist to create, Silo also brings in two teaching artists to hold workshops on different art forms and practices.

“They have a real drive to be artists. This is what they want to do,” Donnelly said. “And so, the idea is to help connect them to the larger art world.”

Canton-based artist Kat Francis is one of those instructors, working with Silo since 2020. She said the artists help guide her on what the next thing is to teach.

“I go around and talk to each artist individually and am guided by what they need,” Francis said. “You’ll start to notice that there’s an interest in something specific with a few artists at the same time.”

Artist Kat Francis holds a watercolor workshop at Silo Arts Studio
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
Kat Francis recently held a watercolor workshop at Silo Arts Studio. "When I came here, I got really excited by working with each artist individually because they're all so unique," she said.

Many of the artists are creating works for both group and solo shows held in Silo’s gallery during First Fridays, a walkable celebration of the arts in Downtown Canton every first Friday of the month. Silo artists’ works have also been on view at the Canton Museum of Art and Massillon Museum.

“It’s just a really exciting, inspirational job to me on the art aspect,” Francis said. “But then on the human level, the artists here teach me a lot about being a better person, being a better friend, so I get just as much as they do out of this place.”

Darick Frady, an artist of many mediums, is one of the original “OG” members of the studio. He specializes in digital drawing and comic book art.

“Silo is a great place,” Frady said. “It’s different. I love it here. You can be yourself, you can do whatever you want.”

Artist Darick Frady shows off his drawing portfolio.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
Silo Artist Darick Frady shows off his drawing portfolio. He also enjoys digital drawing and creating his own comic book characters.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.