Bethany Clough

Retail Therapy: UCP students gain confidence, work through sale of art pieces

Hanging art on your walls from local artists has meaning enough, but here's something even cooler: You can buy art created by students at UCP of Central California and give them a commission that may be the only paycheck they'll ever get.

The art for sale ranges from abstract water colors and colorful acrylic paintings to ceramic wind chimes and mosaics.

It is created in art classes at UCP's program for adults in central Fresno, which serves people with cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

The artwork is just part of the community college-like set up at UCP. More than 130 students choose from several classes that happen at the location, including performing arts, gardening, technology and cooking.

But the art classes are popular, in part because of the 50% commission the students get when they sell a piece. The remainder of the money pays for the art supplies.

Student Patti Fields, 64, just likes to draw. It's relaxing for her. She says she gets delighted — and a little surprised — when someone expresses an interest in her art or buys a piece.

"Wow," she says. "I'm glad I did it. I just like drawing and whenever they need me to do something, I'll do it."

She uses her commission money on groceries or a little something to treat herself.

The students also take commissions from people looking for specific work, say a mobile or wind chime to match a child's room or interests.

The nonprofit organization sells the art by appointment at its center at 4224 N. Cedar Ave. It's displayed on the walls of several rooms where students take their classes. Call (559) 221-8272 to make an appointment.

You can see some of the art on the organization's Facebook page at, on its Instagram account under the name "UCPCC" and occasionally on Twitter under the name "UCPCC."

UCP also sells the art at its various events and participates in the occasional ArtHop night. The art will be on display from 5-8 p.m. at the Sept. 4 ArtHop at Frank's Place at the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts.

Students at UCP have a wide range of abilities, says Kim Regnerus, coordinator of development.

"Wherever the student is, that's where we start," she says. "Some students are able to hold a paintbrush; some aren't."

Latoya Riddlespriger, an art teacher at UCP for seven years, gets creative when it comes to how some students create art.

For students who don't have much control of their hand motions, she'll squirt paint on paper, lay plastic over it and let the student move her hands across it. The result is a gorgeous multi-colored abstract painting with texture.

Sometimes she puts eye droppers filled with paint in the mouths of students who don't have use of their hands and lets them squeeze it on a canvas. One such painting looks like white and purple lightning on a dark night sky.

"We'll figure some way to make it work," she says.

Students' motor skills improve as they work.

Regnerus said she's seen students who had trouble holding a paint brush at first. At the end of the year they could not only hold it, but move it around the paper.

And there's an ego boost that happens when a student sells a piece.

"The amount of confidence that is gained when somebody looks at something you've finished and says, 'Wow,' — it's amazing," she says.

UCP hopes to eventually put images of the art on an online shopping site, allowing an even broader audience to see and buy the art.

"Of course, the dream is to get a brand new larger facility that has an art gallery," Regnerus says. "For right now it's the online, and in person and continuing to do the community outreach."