Artability: Express, Create, Grow

Originally published in the Winter 18-19 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM.

Photos by Jordan Chavez

Photos by Jordan Chavez

Stepping into The Art Center on any given day, you will see a variety of artwork exhibited in the galleries, hear laughter coming from the classrooms, and feel the passion for art in the community. Art education is the heartbeat of the organization. 

One important part of art education at The Art Center is Artability — Arts for All, a community-based program that strives to accommodate underserved organizations and create awareness that guides students’ growth within their individual artistic abilities. 

Artability was started in 2009 by Mark Saro, a member of The Art Center who saw a need and sponsored early classes out of his own pocket until more sustainable funding was found. Today the program is supported by grants and donations. 

The Art Center partners with agencies such as Hilltop, Ariel Clinical Services, Strive, and the Center for Independence to implement art classes for individuals with physical, social, and mental challenges. Artability also partners with local schools to exhibit student artwork and offer field trips and projects. 

An art instructor of nearly three decades, Rachel Egleston has a knack for engaging people in creativity.

An art instructor of nearly three decades, Rachel Egleston has a knack for engaging people in creativity.

Rachel Egleston is The Art Center’s director of youth education and Arts for All. She is a certified art teacher and artist who grew up in a household brimming with art. Even after dedicating the past 28 years of her career to art education, she still says, “I am so lucky I get to do this!” 

“Artability offers students a safe, nonjudgmental place where they can feel confident and make their own choices in art,” explains Egleston. Her classes blend ages and ability levels, which she says builds cohesion within the groups. Egleston provides instruction for art projects, and her students work together to help each other succeed in their goals. They participate in painting, batik, clay, fibers, and more. Although these classes are therapeutic, they are not structured like art therapy programs. 

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Hilltop’s Life Enrichment Specialist Steven Vigil brings clients with traumatic brain injuries to The Art Center weekly. He believes art helps them grow in communication and problem-solving skills. Artability also creates awareness and connects clients with their community. Wayne, a client from Hilltop, has been attending classes for six months. He remarks, “Rachel is always willing to go out of her way to help me achieve what I want to do.” 

Students in Artability classes currently range from ages 21 to 72, and The Art Center is planning to expand the program within the next year. Two of its biggest goals are to provide classes to younger students and to offer access to individuals who are not part of an agency. 

At The Art Center, art is more than the finished pieces on the walls — it’s about exploring, growing, and building community. As Egleston says, “It’s a chance for students to create their own worlds within their art.”

The Art Center

1803 N. Seventh Street, Grand Junction /

For information about classes or to make a donation, contact Rachel Egleston at, 970.243.7337 x7