Amid vibrant reds, blues and greens, adults with special needs make money selling their artwork

Jacob Barron is standing next to a canvas longer than his wingspan.

It's dressed in a crowded pattern of red streaks varying in stroke. Some are stained blood-red and are super thick, while other skinnier lines emit a sunset orange. Barron's masterpiece is his newest piece of artwork.

"This is my most current piece of artwork, and it's a mix of ink, pastel," he said. "There's also crayon and things."

Barron is one of the many artists at the Soul Center taking the messy chaos of our thoughts and personalities and splashing them on canvasses. The institution, populated by adults with special needs producing differing sizes of artwork, caters to all forms of talent and skill.

"The red here means passion, whereas this blue means cold or the green may stand for sadness or maybe a memory of a picnic on the grass," said Anthony Marcellini. 

Marcellini runs the Soul Center out of West Bloomfield. He's personifying many of the colors that the center's painters use to express themselves. But it's not just painting the artists do. They also specialize in sculpting and weaving. 

The center is the product of the Friendship Circle, which helps bridge the gap for many adults with special needs in search of a source of income.

"When our kids we started with in '94 were growing up and sitting at home, doing nothing...they're basically eating and playing video games all day and some of them are getting really depressed," said Bassie Shemtov, founder of the Friendship Circle. "What are you gonna do for them?"

The answer came in the form of the Soul Center. While many of the adults are on a fixed income tied to Social Security, they can also sell their artwork. Any money earned helps supplement their income.

Beyond just the financial assistance however, Marcellini said there's a raw honesty to the work that gets produced. Nothing is shielding the artists from expressing their true identity.

"There is an attention to detail here and an attention to materials which I don't always see in a lot of artist's practices," Marcellini said. "It's very focused and it's very intense. This love of color, this material of color. The brightness, the vibration of color and those things become really present in the artwork."

The guest curator for the Soul Center is Patrick Hill, a world renowned artist famous for his work using wood, stone, steel, fabric and glass. He said the biggest challenge as curator is deciding which work to display.

I think it's amazing," Hill said. "It's very intuitive and very material-based and pretty emotional and colorful and sort-of knowing and also not knowing at the same time."