Uptown Dreams City Art Studio: Where more than 20 artists show what they can create

Kalib Strines has had a longstanding interest in woodworking. 

“It’s been my dream to be a carpenter,” says the 25-year-old Springfield resident, who crafts pens, ice cream scoops, magnifying glasses, and more.

Strines is just one of about two dozen artists who sell their items at Uptown Dreams City Art Studio, located in the Hatch Artist Studios, 105 N. Center St. Artists are primarily referred to Uptown Dreams by their case managers through the government agency Developmental Disabilities of Clark County.

The artists initially began selling their wares in a partnership with TAC after the studios opened in 2016, but Uptown Dreams acquired its name in 2020 and now runs as an individual organization.

Between 20 and 25 artists display and sell their wares at the studio, says Beth Lamb, a community navigator with Developmental Disabilities of Clark County, along with Sharon Pruzaniec. The studio is a place where they can show what they can do — where they can be artists instead of people with disabilities who do art, Lamb says.

“We’re helping people find roles that they can claim,” she says.

Displaying a magnifying glass with a handcrafted handle by Kalib Strines. They include woodworkers, watercolor artists, and jewelry-makers. Items range from cutting boards to handmade jewelry to notecards and puzzles, and prices range from a couple of dollars to framed, painted artwork worth about $200. Some artists also take custom orders.

Prices are affordable and fair, Lamb says, and there is an effort to avoid underpricing.

“We never want it to feel like a charity,” she says, noting the time it takes for the artists to learn their skills.

Shoppers can visit Uptown Dreams — which receives financial support from Quest Inc., a local non-profit organization that creates opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities — on the first floor of the Hatch Artist Studios from 5 to 9 p.m. during each month’s First Friday. Other times to visit can be scheduled by request.

Visitors often meet the artist behind the items, learning more about the inspiration behind the piece.

Artworks of many mediums are on display at Uptown Dreams City Art Studio.“One of the cool things is that you’re always going to leave with a story,” Lamb says.

Strines named his business Olivewood Designs because of his love of the smell of olive wood. His many items have proven popular with customers, including one person who purchased 10 backscratchers and 10 pizza cutters — in part because they make great gifts.

Cathy Jenkins, 59, also of Springfield, sells some craft items at Uptown Dreams, but most of her items for sale center on the paintings she has completed over the last several decades. Her prints — which include many outdoor scenes, animals, and still lifes — can be purchased on items like notecards, puzzles, and mugs.

Both Strines and Jenkins have received plaudits for their work, Pruzaniec says. For example, a handcrafted bowl created by Strines was accepted into an art show for Art Possible and traveled throughout Ohio in 2022. And last year Jenkins won third- and fourth-place awards at the juried Art and Soul art show and her paintings were included in an exhibit at the Dayton Metro Library.

Uptown Dreams artists also are connected to local mentors who help to guide them and help them learn woodworking, jewelry making and other skills depending on the artists’ interests. The Hatch space includes studio space for both experienced and burgeoning artists as well as mentors.

Both the relationships they build and the skills that are developed are important.

“There is a place for people with disabilities to learn how to do a skill or learn how to do art where other people are doing art,” Lamb says.

Art by an award winning arts, Cathy Jenkins, Uptown Dreams City Art Studio.Those skills are related not only to the art they create but also the businesses they run. Lamb says they learn about inventory, pricing, suggestive selling, increasing their line of offerings, interacting with the public, and using a point-of-sale system to take payments.

For some the art is a hobby, Lamb says, while others may dream of their own storefront. 

Pruzaniec thinks of Uptown Dreams as an incubator, and she sees the studio’s role as supporting each artist’s goals.

“This is their studio,” Pruzaniec says.

They also take their art beyond Hatch Artist Studios, participating in art fairs such as ArtSoFo on South Fountain Avenue, she says.

Jewerly on display at Uptown Dreams City Art Studio.Uptown Dreams allows participants to embrace the terms used to describe themselves beyond their disabilities, Lamb says. They are, for example, artists, and woodworkers, and entrepreneurs.

“It helps other people in the community see the contributions everyone can make,” Lamb says. 

The Clark County community has supported Uptown Dreams and the artists who make it possible, and sales have increased since 2020.

“There are community members who come back time and time again to see what the artists are producing and what’s new,” Lamb says.

While Uptown Dreams is happy at the Hatch and is in no hurry to leave, Lamb says she also sees the potential to have its own storefront that could be open several days a week.

“It’s a launchpad to so many things,” Lamb says.

The 8-year-old Uptown Dreams City Art Studio is now located in the Hatch Artist Studios, 105 N. Center St.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.