Special needs artists fill Phoenix gallery

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Flerish Design features works created by adults with developmental disabilities. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Flerish Design features works created by adults with developmental disabilities. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Shoppers can meet the five artists, working in a studio adjacent to the store. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Shoppers can meet the five artists, working in a studio adjacent to the store. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Flerish is a branch of Civitan, which was founded in Williams, Arizona, 50 years ago, to provide work opportunities and services for adults with special needs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Flerish is a branch of Civitan, which was founded in Williams, Arizona, 50 years ago, to provide work opportunities and services for adults with special needs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Civitan serves around 1,000 Arizonans each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Civitan serves around 1,000 Arizonans each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A new art gallery in north Phoenix features works created by adults with developmental disabilities.

"Flerish Design," in a shopping center on Cave Creek Road, north of Cactus Road, opened in 2016.

Shoppers can meet the five artists, working in a studio adjacent to the store.

"It thrills me that they're getting paid for this," artist and teacher Merilee Adams said.

"We're on the road toward their independence. These are high-functioning people. This isn't a babysitting service," she added.

The artists have surprised her with their natural abilities.

"Anthony's work would stand up fine in any gallery," she said of 21-year-old Anthony Snider.

"I'm already making a full-time career for myself," Snider said while painting a large canvas, which will be sold in a store in Williams, Arizona.

Snider also took it upon himself to call local resorts, asking if any needed artwork.  After one cold call, the Orange Tree Resort in Scottsdale ordered a massive mural from the group.

"It makes me feel really confident about my work," Snider said.

"They're learning the art of business, and the business of art," Adams said.

Still, as is the case with many new businesses, Flerish has struggled to find customers.

"It's expensive to keep this open. You have to pay for the space and the art supplies. We need more people coming into the store," Adams said.

"I wish more people would come see what we're all about," painter Lynn Childress said.

"I was picked on my whole life because I'm different," artist Jessica MacDonald said while painting signs to sell in the store in Williams.

"Art is my outlet. People with disabilities see the world through different eyes," she added.

Flerish is a branch of Civitan, which was founded in Williams, Arizona, 50 years ago, to provide work opportunities and services for adults with special needs.

Adams hopes to see her art program expand and grow, and does not let her painters' disabilities restrict her goals.

"We want to sell our art to people who like high-end art. That's where we're going," she said.

Civitan serves around 1,000 Arizonans each year.

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Jared DillinghamJared anchors the weekend newscasts at 5, 6, 9 and 10pm on both 3TV and CBS5. He also reports during the week for both stations.

Click to learn more about Jared.

Jared Dillingham

Over his decade in Phoenix, Jared has worked all shifts at 3TV, including a yearlong stint anchoring the weekend morning show.

Since 2007, Jared has covered everything from Senator John McCain's campaign for president, to the Jodi Arias trial, to the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Jared grew up in New York, and graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in broadcast journalism and political science.

After internships at News12 Long Island and NBC in Washington, DC, Jared moved to beautiful "Big Sky Country." He spent a year at KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, before moving to KREM in Spokane, Washington.

The Valley has truly become "home" for Jared. He lives in Phoenix, and spends his mornings listening to as many news/political podcasts as possible, while walking his (now elderly) rescue dogs, Gabby and Bree.

On his days off, Jared can be found at any of the local restaurants which have popped up in the city since he first moved here, or hiking Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain.

He also travels as much as possible and runs a blog with advice on visiting cities around the world.

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