Painting through a pandemic

Whitewater studio offers space for artists with disabilities during tough times


Artist Stuart Nagy sets up a display at Studio 84 in downtown Whitewater.

Matt Ellis, Arts and Rec Editor

Studio 84 is an art studio designed to give people with disabilities a chance to enhance their creativity through art while growing at their own pace. While the pandemic has certainly hampered their goals, their drive and ambition remains as strong as ever. In fact, their theme for this spring will be “relief” as they seek a time of new growth and a break from all the troubles of 2020. 

The pandemic has hit the studio hard in some ways. In addition to being closed for three months, it’s also experienced enrollment drop by around 50 percent. There’s also been a reduction in staff to meet the safety requirements of the pandemic. But oftentimes the clients they do have in the studio have high needs, requiring someone to be next to them to keep them focused and on track.  

“Art really provides people with disabilities an activity that challenges them differently. We believe in the studio that art has no wrong answers, and we give them the guidance and the tools they need to succeed,” said Deborah Blackwell, the executive director and founder of Studio 84. 

Moving forward, future events and fundraisers Studio 84 has held will be adapted to fit the needs of the time. Their annual gala night normally features a big array of food, with around 150 people coming in and out to meet the artists and see their work. Last year the event was cancelled because the studio was closed, but this year they hope to revive it.  

“Some of the things that we are planning have to be done in person like videotaping interviews, which will be used for our gala night. It’s normally an in-person event, but due to COVID and social distancing we have decided to do our gala night online,” said artistic mentor and assistant director Ben Kelly. 

They hope to include many of the features in previous years that make the event so special. For example, cupcakes are a staple of the annual Gala night. Last October they did something similar and raised over $1,000 dollars as a fundraiser event. Studio 84 is a non profit-organization that relies on donations and fundraisers to continue doing their work.

This year they will be selling cupcakes that can be picked up curbside, so they are looking for a dozen people who are competitive and like to bake. More information on specific details for the gala night will be released closer to the event. 

For more information or to make a donation, visit the Studio 84  website