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Check Out Patty Mitchell’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patty Mitchell. 

Hi Patty, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?

In 1998, Passion Works began as a collaborative community studio housed within a sheltered workshop where people with and without developmental differences made art together. The studio became a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2018, and it remains a trailblazer in creating integrated settings where people investigate their own talents and interests while participating in community-based programming and creative employment opportunities.


Passion Works creates opportunities for all people to explore and socially connect through the process of making art. We follow the aesthetic lead, talents, and interests of people with developmental differences and support collaborations to encourage vibrant and inclusive communities. We upcycle otherwise discarded materials and produce environmentally responsible items. No voice, no resource, and no region are abandoned as the studio fosters purpose, connection, and belonging.

Shop, learn, and volunteer at

— Passion Works grew out of a promise to my brother- that I would live for the both of us. He was institutionalized – and passed at 12 I was 10. I became obsessed with institutional settings and volunteered with kids with DD and then when at Ohio University volunteered at the Mental Health Center (The Ridges) – My Sophomore year was invited to live on ward in exchange for room and board and organized activities and brought people into the community. I learned a lot about the culture of control and punishment- separation and boredom.  Passion Works’ approach is in response to what typically can be found within cloistered environments — We are full of color, light, experimentation – and we KNOW that connection, purpose, and belonging are necessary for every living being to thrive.  We find out what we like to do and do more of it. We respond to community needs/opportunity and decorate for festivals, collaborate with other nonprofits, the university…we shape shift our surroundings to create the community in which we want to live. We work within a Palace of Wonder and have a blast!


We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Involvement programmatically for people with developmental differences typically focuses on deficits. The studio is artist-run and founded…we look for things people like to do, interests, what folks can do – and do more of all that. Everyone investigates through their personal interests and talents – and the staff’s job is to create a space where we can surrender control. Encouraging connection, purpose, and belonging between people with and without developmental differences together. We are an asset-based studio- looking for solutions and creating the most loving space where all can be seen and encouraged to be their best selves.

This approach works. Every person likes to do what they enjoy, work at their own pace, be respected, and left alone to focus and experiment/practice. Most programs that intentionally work with people with developmental differences do not take this approach. We are positive deviants – and share our model – and have helped replicate like programming nationally and internationally.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?

Studied photography- and I photograph every day.

Artistically I love to make giant puppets, dolls, and banners – sewing and then photographing the work.

I love it when the puppets and dolls – feel like they have awareness…and the photographs help tell their stories.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love the feel of Athens, Ohio – Our ability to collaborate and make our own fun.

Least? – Access to funding/financial support for non-profits – the poverty in the area, hunger.


  • Items from $4 to $2,500

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Patty Mitchell

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