Suburban Graduate Hopes to Use Artwork to Help Disabled

A graduate student from Buffalo Grove is working to make a difference for people with disabilities. He wants to turn their artwork into a paycheck, with his start-up called Creative Souls.

“I’m providing an opportunity for people with disabilities to make money by creating artwork on canvas shoes,” said Drew McNamara, the founder of Creative Souls.

What started as a class project for the University of Illinois graduate student has become his passion.

“The seven artists that I’ve worked with… every time I’ve met with them they’ve had so much fun and the possibility of making money is amazing,” McNamara said.

It’s especially important because it’s hard for people with special needs to find work. There are 57 million people with disabilities in the United States and only 17 percent are employed, according to McNamara.

Jacob Spenadel, 19, from Glen Ellyn loves art.

“To color is my favorite thing to do,” Spenadel said.

Born with Down Syndrome, Spenadel has taken art classes since he was little. That’s why his family is hoping Creative Souls can expand.

“Right now with hand-painted shoes I’m not able to get people the design that they want in a certain size, because it’s hand-painted,” explained McNamara.

McNamara is fundraising right now to buy a direct-to-garment printer, so artists with disabilities can then send in sketches from all over the country. McNamara can then print the sketch directly onto the shoes, in any size that the customer selects.

“I have people in Chicago, Arizona, Michigan -- there are people all over who want to be involved. As soon as I get that printer I can help people from all over,” McNamara said.

The idea of people wearing his artwork is exciting for Jacob Spenadel.

“Everyone would be happy, be more excited for a million different outfits, a million different shoes and new styles,” Spenadel said.

To find more information or to donate to Creative Souls, click here.

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