SJCS Stories

Spotlight on Art Options

A few weeks before Christmas, when I had just started at St. John’s, our Art Options program was promoting pet portraits. A portrait of our dog was the perfect gift for my significant other! My kids had always wanted a puppy, and Jameson was rescued right before Christmas in 2016. I will forever remember the look on their faces when they came home to find Jameson under the tree on Christmas Eve.

I reached out to Marvin, who runs our Art Options program, to see if there was still time to order. Thankfully, he squeezed in my request. I would like to say I “waited patiently,” but Marvin might tell you otherwise. I was so excited that I regularly checked with him to see when the portrait might be done. The timing was perfect! The week of Christmas break, I took my twin daughters, Jonaca and Riley to visit the Art Options Studio to pick up the portrait. Marvin graciously took us on a tour of the studio, walking us past piece after piece of amazing art done by the SJCS artists, while giving a history of the program. A session was in progress when we entered the studio, so we were able to meet many of the artists, including Michael, who had painted our portrait of Jameson. The finished piece is truly a masterpiece! It now proudly brightens up our family room, reminding us of the wonderful gift that Jameson has been in our lives.

Jameson’s portrait was an excellent introduction to the Art Options program, which brings joy to customers like me; but is also a tool for career development, skill building, and self-awareness. Overall, the program contributes to the artistic exchange between people living with and without disabilities, which enhances the artists’ career, independence, and provides a sense of community belonging. I am so grateful to the artist Michael, as well as Marvin, and the entire team that empowers the artists to discover their amazing talents and bring their skills to life.





Alan Thornton
President and CEO
St. John’s Community Services

More from the Studio

Black History Month Visualized

Marvin, the Art Options Manager, decorates the DC office each month with new artwork. In February we celebrated Black History Month through art. Take a closer look at Maya Angelou, Fredrick Douglas, Mohammad Ali, and Chuck Berry.

Inspired by the Winter Olympics

The Art Options program gets regularly uses current events to inspire art creation, encourage individual expression, and in turn, enhance the artists’ career development. These recent pieces were inspired by the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Celebrate Your Fluffy Friend!

Our Art Options Pet Portraits are available year round! Order your pet portrait on our pet portrait page. As Alan described, portraits are perfect for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, or just to show pet love!

These works, like all Art Options artwork, is available for sale or display in art spaces. Art Options also loans work to offices, schools, and other public spaces. 75% of the proceeds from sales and loans of Art Options work goes directly to the artist, while 25% of the proceeds are put back into the running of the Art Options Program.

Art Options at St. John’s Community Services supports people with disabilities to use art as a tool for career development and self-awareness. Participants are involved in the arts community through activities such as taking classes to learn new artistic skills, mediums and styles, volunteering at gallery events, and visiting exhibits in one of the many museums in the Northern Virginia and DC region. These experiences contribute to the artistic exchange between people with and without disabilities, which enhances the artists’ career development. The program also embraces St. John’s principles of independence, full citizenship, advocacy, and equal rights for people with disabilities.