Portland Rose Festival and Regence team up to support autism nonprofit

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Regence BlueCross BlueShield and the Portland Rose Festival Foundation will come together to donate $20,000 to North Pole Studios, a nonprofit that helps people with autism and developmental disabilities intellectual to succeed as artists.

Rich Jarvis of the Portland Rose Festival Foundation says the encouragement to educate in the arts and community was a perfect fit.

“The art and education aspect that comes through here shines brightly because we see people developing their skills who have developed wonderful works. That’s the purpose of the rose festival, is to be able to develop creative talents and to provide platforms for that,” says Jarvis.

North Pole gives artists the opportunity to complete projects from painting, drawing, sculpting, and even t-shirts. The donations will go towards things like hiring staff, materials, and hosting workshops, but their primary focus is accessibility for artists.

“A huge element that we support is just facilitating connections between opportunities for artists like this in the community who are really changing careers and often not performing blindly around their work,” says Sula Willson, Director of the North Pole Studios program.

The artist co-founder, Davis Wohlford, has already sold his art. It will be displayed inside the wrapper of a Moonstruck chocolate bar. Wohlford even has an ongoing project with the Oregon Zoo.

“I’m working on donating mod podge animals to the Oregon Zoo. The ones that come to mind, the ones that are at the zoo today, the ones from the past,” says Wohlford.

Artists say North Pole Studios gives them a sense of place and a sense of belonging.

“It’s very rewarding, and it also makes me feel a lot better about myself,” says artist Max.

“It’s so good to be around other artists who are like me; who are different, a good different and just be you and you make yourself,” Austin says.

There are currently 25 artists in the program, but North Pole Studios hopes with this donation they can expand later this year.

The check will be presented at the Distinguished Visitors Dinner during Fleet Week in June.

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