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    Mary Dignan, right, works on a mosaic as arts director Carol Mathew-Rogers supplies extra lighting to aid Dignan's limited vision at the Spirit in the Arts studio in North Sacramento.

  • Autumn Payne /

    Lydia Baca draws with colored pencils at the Spirit in the Arts program.

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    Brenda Brooks wears a sweater she made and a bracelet she embellished at the free community program, which needs ergonomic chairs, desks and lighting for its participants.

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Book of Dreams: Creativity, camaraderie lift spirits of artists

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 - 7:10 pm

The Spirit in the Arts program is aptly named. People come here to create art. In the process, their spirits are lifted and filled.

Some paint. Others crochet. Still others create jewelry and mosaics. Their backgrounds vary widely, yet they gather in an open creative arts studio to learn, express themselves and support one another.

"It's so calm here," said Brenda Brooks, 54, on a recent Tuesday as she finished a vibrant crocheted sweater. "It is a place of deep respect and honor."

Spirit in the Arts, at 650 El Camino Ave., serves an impoverished community in North Sacramento, as well as the wider Sacramento area.

A program of the nonprofit Bread of Life Center, it provides working studio space, art supplies and equipment at no charge, and is staffed by artists who volunteer, said Carol Mathew-Rogers, art director. The program is not religious, but through the communal art-making process, spirituality often is deepened.

"Things happen when you join a community," Mathew-Rogers said. "When you create something, it changes the artist, it changes the people who view it and it changes the community."

Brooks has come for 2 1/2 years. She works part time doing housekeeping and personal care for others, and learned of the studio while recovering from substance abuse.

"I really didn't consider myself an artist before," she said, noting she always enjoyed needle crafts and sewing. "But I get such satisfaction creating things, and seeing the work of everyone else."

As she spoke, Brooks was surrounded by others at a large table, each creating something different.

At one end sat Mary Dignan, 58, a lawyer who lost most of her eyesight and hearing and who helped start the arts program in 2004.

Nearby was Billie Custock, a volunteer and teacher at the studio, who was helping her 6-year-old granddaughter Ava Berry make a collage.

At the other end was Freddie Rowe, 50, who has disabilities and works as a janitor. He said he loves making mosaics and socializing at the center.

"It gets my mind off stuff," said Rowe, who suffered personal losses last year, and is giving back by volunteering at the center and starting an arts group in his own neighborhood.

Everything at Spirit in the Arts is donated, and much of the equipment is worn, Mathew-Rogers said. She is asking Book of Dreams readers to support the purchase of art supplies, as well as adjustable-height work tables, task chairs and lighting that will make things easier for community members, including those with poor vision and physical challenges.

NEEDED: Art supplies, tables, chairs and lighting for the Spirit in the Arts program.

TOTAL: $5,000

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Read more articles by Deb Kollars

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