Soul Studio show ‘Mirror, Mirror’ at CCS’ Center Galleries gives artists a professional boost.

Written and photographed by Anthony Lanzilote

Alyssa Gold


Alyssa Gold has been blind since infancy, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a prolific visual artist. She creates long strings of beads she nets into large webs, creating works of art that are both spontaneous and ordered.

Her work, along with work from 12 other artists from the Friendship Circle Soul Studio, will be on display in “Mirror, Mirror” at Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit through March.

Founded in 2016, Soul Studio in West Bloomfield is an art program for neurodivergent adults that works to develop each student’s artistic practice and create works for display and for sale.

Bassie Shemtov, the program’s founder and co-founder of Friendship Circle, says this is not therapeutic art.

“We don’t want the word client or participants … they are here; they are in the studio; they are artists,” she says.

Soul Studio’s facilitating art staff are practicing artists who have little to no experience working with people with
special needs. As artists, they focus on guiding the program’s members inpainting and sculpture, digital media, fibers and ceramics.

Gold had beaded before, but it wasn’t until joining Soul Studio that she truly became an artist.

“She started beading in school and [Soul Studio] took it to the next level,” says her mother, Andi Gold. Alyssa works from a container holding a small share of tens of thousands of donated beads; now she also makes her own ceramic beads.

“Alyssa can thread something that is less than a millimeter wide, which is amazing to me. I can’t thread a needle, and she does it without having any vision,” her mom says.

Andy Feinberg takes a more conceptual approach. “I do all kinds of jokes,” he says. His pieces, usually on paper, display a wry and sardonic humor. For one, he created a sign that said, “Lost Ballpoint Pen” and offered a Boston cream doughnut as a reward for its return. In the Center Galleries show, he created “Prankbook,” a zine of the irreverent signs and flyers from his time at the studio, many razzing the center’s staff. The cover wryly states, “Don’t Open This Book.”

Other pieces in the show seem to fit squarely into to neo-Expressionist movement of the late-20th century. Rachel Fallert constructs cartoonish and colorful towers out of paper mache she titles “Fingers.” Aislinn Wendrow creates brightly colored canvases with thickly applied paint, with foreign materials like towels and recycled paper attached.

Aislinn Wendrow

Bob Hafle of Detroit, whose wife volunteers at the Soul Studio, was the first to purchase a work from the show, a large canvas by Wendrow. An avid collector of silkscreen art, he plans to display the large mixed-media piece in his prominent foyer.

This show is a milestone for the Soul Studio.

“I’m very [keen] on trying to get the work of our artists in the same venues as other artists in the Detroit area who don’t have special needs,” says Anthony Marcellini, Soul Studio’s exhibitions and program manager. Soul Studio artists have exhibited at the University of Toledo and recently did a pop-up show at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery. Exhibiting at the Center Galleries, a space for professional creators, helps cement Soul Studio as a space for practicing artists.

“Maybe the right person will see it and get inspired,” Shemtov says. “They’ll say, ‘How ’bout New York? How ’bout the DIA? How ’bout who knows?’ Everything can happen.

“A big part of why we do what we do is … to educate the general public about how much we would gain as a society to have people with special needs as part of our lives.”

The show is open through March 30
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday
301 Frederick Douglass. Free parking available in the CCS parking structure located on Brush Street between Frederick Douglass and Ferry

Additional programs:

“The Scribbling Stage: Disability as Ability at the Soul Studio,” a talk with Anthony Marcellini, Soul Studio exhibitions and programs manager, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, Wendell W. Anderson Jr. Auditorium, Walter B. Ford II Building, CCS Ford Campus

A gallery talk with the artists of “Mirror, Mirror” at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 27. Center Galleries, Manoogian Visual Resource Center, College for Creative Studies, 301 Frederick Douglass, Detroit


Check out the slideshow for more artwork from Soul Studio artists

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