Hope Studios sits behind an unassuming façade in Anchorage. Every weekday, artists are collaborating to create works of all sorts. Each one has a developmental or intellectual disability.


Director of Artistic Expression Jenny Moore said the disabilities help generate originality in the artwork.


“They bring an element of innocence to the artwork. It’s very whimsical and beautiful and free,” Moore said.


The studio has been operating for seven years. It started out with just a few artists, and has expanded to 65.


One of those artists, Erik Hamerski, says he’s made some of his best friends while at Hope.


“Everybody loves me here. I really enjoy coming here… it’s a community for me,” Hamerski said.


The art made by Hamerski and the other artists is sold at the neighboring gallery and at shops and restaurants around town. Hamerski prides himself in his selling prowess.


“It’s really hard work and I want people to enjoy it,” Hamerski said.


Hamerski suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome, which affects things like muscle growth and diet control. His mother, Lee Ann Hamerski, said the art allows Hamerski to express himself creatively and supports the development of his motor skills.


“It gives him additional skills that he wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said.


One of the shops selling the artwork is Bella Boutique in Spenard. Owner Annie Ciszak Pazar said the relationship is mutually beneficial.


“We’re this tiny little mom-and-pop operation in this giant box store world, and in order to help our local economy, we need to help each other within our community. It just makes sense,” Ciszak Pazar said.


On her wall is a plaque from Hope Studios honoring her commitment to the organization. She has been selling the art for four years – longer than anyone else. 85 percent of proceeds from pieces sold at Bella boutique go back to Hope.


“These may be adults with disabilities, but they’re doing some awesome stuff,” she said.


KTVA’s Liz Raines contributed to this report.


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