LionheARTisans Cottage

Diane Smith teaches beyond the paintbrush — LionhARTisans Cottage offers more than art.

Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Roxanne Pinzl and Diane Smith oversee the students while working.
Photo submitted by Diane Smith
Diane Smith and her son Sam at the LionhARTisans Cottage.
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Students pick out materials to use in the artwork.
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Students pick out materials to use in the artwork.
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Various pieces of art are available to the public after the students complete projects using donated materials. Little direction is given and the artists are free to use their imagination.
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
The LionhARTisans Cottage is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays at 180 Academy Street in Alpharetta. Donations are accepted for art created by the students.
By Kathleen Sturgeon
It’s not about the end product, it’s about the process.”
Diane Smith



Thursday, Nov 10, 2016

10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

180 Academy Street Alpharetta, Ga

(The cottage at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church)

At one point, Diane Smith’s son, Sam, was thought to be disobedient, color blind and unable to test well.

“Sometimes he could be misconstrued as misbehaving if he hits someone to get their attention,” Smith said. “I used to explain it’s like he has peanut butter in his mouth and is trying to say something. It’s challenging but also a gift, too. There is no end point to what he can do.”

After he was found to have apraxia – no language -- he started attending the Lionheart School where he was able to take part in the Works Program. He began to flourish.

Students in the program are assigned to specific projects that fit their needs and match their interests.

Sam, who enjoys working outside and with his hands, now has various jobs, including at a local golf course and at a plant nursey.

“Working at a grocery store doesn’t mean anything to him,” Smith said. “He works at a golf course so he can be outside and do maintenance. He’s so happy there. It plays up on his interests and he doesn’t even know it. It’s amazing he’s come this far.”

After witnessing her son’s transformation, Diane knew she had to get involved with the school. She is now the Lionsheartisans project coordinator, and helps the artists create work that is available to the public, and the donations for the artwork goes back to the school.

“In art class we give them a platform to creatively express themselves in a nonthreatening way,” Smith said.

“The work doesn’t have to look a certain way. Sometimes it’s hard to think these kids are making this artwork.”

The cottage, located at 180 Academy Street in Alpharetta pays a very modest rent to Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, and is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday for customers, and also by appointment. There is an upcoming show at the cottage from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 10.

All of the materials are donated and it’s up to the students to get creative, decide where to go with the designs and work with what is available to them.

But more importantly the students are learning what it’s like to be in a work place and have a viable place in the community, Smith said.

“It is a job that allows the students to collaborate with each other to create beautiful works of art,” Smith said. “They learn everything from taking instruction to applying real world techniques. They get excited from being a part of something.”

The work that is created often exceeds expectations and Smith said she tells people to come see it in person to really believe what art is produced.

“When you think of special needs art you might think of popsicle sticks or elementary school stuff,” Smith said. “We let them create. There is no right or wrong or anything to mess up.”

Diane enjoys helping students figure out how to go to the next step, while also trying to give them a productive life as independent as they can possibly be.

“We not only are repurposing the donated materials, but also giving the kids a purpose,” Smith said. “I always say ‘It’s not about the end product, but the process.’ Everybody in the world wants a purpose. That’s what keeps them going.” ■


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