Christine Armstrong had a glint of an idea: Create her own digital artwork to sell to her employer, The Opportunity Tree. The organization, which provides employment services to members of the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), was not only receptive, but helped Armstrong evolve her idea into a program for other creatively-minded individuals: The Opportunity Tree will teach design skills to adults with developmental disabilities, then employ them to create marketing materials.
Related: From Dirt to Décor: Taliesin Project Puts DDD Members to Work in the Decorative Arts
Building a Digital Studio
Armstrong worked closely with Taylor Buttrey, Manager of Cultural Programs & Development at The Opportunity Tree, to create the new program.
“This has been a goal of mine since I started in the field five years ago,” said Buttrey. His vision was to create a vocational training opportunity to help interested individuals “learn skills that are going to be marketable for the next 20 to 30 years.”
Management at The Opportunity Tree developed a grant proposal to create a Digital Studio. Together, Buttrey and Armstrong presented the idea to the City of Phoenix, who provided the organization with a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant.
Armstrong “was actually a really big part of getting our feet moving on this project. It was something we’ve been talking about, thinking about, but hearing that directly from a [DDD] member really kind of got us: ‘Hey, this is something we need to do.’”
Teaching Graphics and Design to Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Using newly-purchased MacBook Airs, interested DDD members are learning design skills using Adobe Photoshop software. Armstrong’s father taught her how to use it, so she was already familiar with Photoshop. She also took classes on the program at Camelback High School and Phoenix Community College. Since then, Armstrong and three other DDD members have been creating business cards, ID cards and flyers for The Opportunity Tree.
The new design of the business cards was Armstrong’s creation. According to Vikki Snipes, Assistant Art Coordinator, Digital Studio staff were given the design elements, such as the logo, and each member came up with how to place it on the card.
“I’m glad they chose one of [my designs],” said Armstrong.
While the Digital Studio team continues working on internal collateral for The Opportunity Tree, the organization is reaching out to other groups. “We have two companies and one organization [that] have already expressed an interest in partnering with us, as well,” said Buttrey. “We have a lot of people who are really interested and have a lot of potential.”