DAC clients’ creativity on display

Local artist Nate Lueters, at center, shared his love of painting with Developmental Achievement Center clients Amy Tangeman, at left, and Vanessa Anderson. The flower mural in the background is now on display on the side of the DAC building in downtown Park Rapids.

For many years, the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) has helped clients find work, but executive director Laura Johnson wanted to add more opportunities to help clients grow their social skills through exploring all the arts have to offer.

An $18,136 Minnesota State Arts Board grant provided funding for a fun arts project each month.

That year of creativity has culminated in a traveling art show. It appeared at Citizens National Bank this week and will be at Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids Feb. 10-17, CHI St. Joseph’s Health Feb. 17-24 and Bella Caffé Feb. 24-29.

“We were lucky to find local artists who were willing to work with us,” Johnson said. “One of the things I’ve seen in all of the art programs is people stretching themselves past their disabilities. I’ve seen people who didn’t think they could be in a play, but by the time of the production were loving it and signing up for more.”

Murals painted with artist Nate Luetgers brighten up the side of the DAC building downtown, while mosaics created with artist Marsha Wolff are on display inside. Mosaics also brighten the walls at the Bearly Used Thrift Store and Salvage Depot, both operated by the DAC.


Greta Carlson and Tiffiny Stenson were two of the DAC clients who created a mural with Nevis artist Marsha Wolff.

Jennifer Geraedts directed a play and a musical featuring DAC clients.

“The arts experiences are very popular and clients have really benefited,” Johnson said.

Lindsay Gooch is one of those clients. She participated in drama while a student at Nevis High School and jumped right into the opportunity to do more theater.

“It gave me an opportunity to work in a theater setting outside of the DAC itself, which was really cool and something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school,” Gooch said. “I stepped into a leadership role in the plays and put together a practice group.”

Gooch works as a cashier at the thrift store and also found a part-time job last summer ushering at Long Lake Theater in Hubbard. “I got to see all of the plays for free and meet a lot of fun and interesting people,” she said.

Gooch said she definitely wants to be in more plays because acting makes her happy. “I’m planning to audition for Northern Light Opera’s ‘Big Fish’ this summer,” she said.


Gooch also enjoyed creating mosaics with Wolff. “She was one of my favorite teachers in high school,” she said.

Johnson said the DAC didn’t charge admission for plays, choosing instead to help the local food shelf.

“We had 165 people attend the last musical, raising $400 for the food shelf and collecting over 200 pounds of food,” she said.

Tom Blaha said he took part in all of the art experiences, but his favorite was painting. He also enjoyed playing the master in the Bremen Town Musicians.

“He was supposed to be a grumpy master, but Tom is always smiling,” Johnson said. “He had to practice being grumpy.”

Blaha said he works at Coborn's Grocery, the thrift store, nursing home and cleans at the school. It took some planning to fit the art experiences into his schedule, but it was worth it.

“I like to try new things,” he said.

Shayna Braunschweig said she had fun in the play, but her favorite was “Paint with Nate.” “I had never painted before and liked learning new techniques,” she said. “I liked painting nature scenes and working on the murals. Painting is relaxing.”


Johnson said activities are adapted so people in wheelchairs or who are nonverbal can participate and succeed.

“By showing our art and doing our plays, we help people open their eyes and realize that people with differences are still just the same,” she said. “People who are in a wheelchair or are blind can do more than people realize.”

“A lot of people would say Gretta can’t do a play because she’s non-verbal,” Gooch said. “She did both plays and did an excellent job in parts where she doesn’t need to talk and can just use gestures and actions.”

Johnson said many audience members came up after the shows and told how much they enjoyed it.

“They left feeling as joyful as we were,” she said.

These activities were made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

“I’m currently applying for another grant so we can bring in artists to teach new skills, new types of art,” Johnson said.

She would like to turn some of the client artwork into notecards to sell at the DAC stores, with funds going back into the arts program.


In addition to the paid artists, volunteers with a talent to share with clients may contact Johnson at 237-8518.

“We really would like to add more music to our programming, too,” she said.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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