'Use this as an opportunity to bring light into your life': Jewish-run art studio paints message of inclusion

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FOX POINT, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Sunday, Dec. 18 marks the start of Hanukkah, an eight-day religious celebration remembering the uprising of the Jewish community against their Greek-Syrian oppressors.

While the uprising happened centuries ago, the message of Hanukkah isn't lost on the Jewish community today.

A local art studio is spreading the Hanukkah message of light and inclusion one brush stroke at a time.

"It's about bringing people together, it's about being a shining light in the community, to make a difference, and to be an inclusive place that everyone can feel welcomed," said Levi Stein, executive director of Friendship Circle.

The Fox Point café offers "open art" every Sunday from 1-3 p.m., except Christmas Day and New Year's Day, for all walks of life, allowing people of all ages and abilities to connect with their inner artist.

"We have people that you may have a full conversation with them and never realize that there is anything different from you or me, and then we have some people, maybe someone's in wheelchair and it's hard for them to hold a paintbrush, so we give them a special one that’s a little bigger, that they can actually work with, and we have some people that are non-verbals, so they express themselves differently," said Jen Schoshinski, art director of Friendship Circle.

Participants can choose a project from the circle's gallery wall, and with the guidance of Schoshinski or other staff, participants can let their creativity flow.

"It's just a way to explore kind of who you are, what do I like, what color do I like, what medium do I like to work with, and you're making beautiful objects," said Schoshinski.

The art studio paints a new picture of inclusion, in a world where people with special needs are often seen as abstract or Avant Garde.

"We want to be the fire, the flame, the soul of our community, to tell the world that you can be who you are, and you can come inside, and you can make a difference," said Stein.

Taking advantage of Friendship Circle's open art studio, you'll find people like Sol Weingrod, whose light shines a little differently.

"I like the prettiness of it (painting), I guess," said Weingrod, an employee and art participant at Friendship Circle.

"I have what's called a non-verbal learning disability, so I see things non-verbally, and that can make things tough sometimes," said Weingrod.

Tough, but not impossible.

"I feel good, because it's nice to feel accomplished, like accomplishing something, and you have something to do, and I definitely feel positive," said Weingrod.

The art studio isn't just blending and mixing colors. Faith and religion are also meeting on the canvas, adding a fresh hue of color in a world that can sometimes seem dark.

"Use this as an opportunity to bring light into your life, take the message of Hanukah, make it make a difference to you," said Stein.

Although Friendship Circle is a Jewish-run organization, all walks of life are encouraged to come in.

"I feel like just being in a space where you are accepted and you just feel free, you know, how can that not be some form of therapy?" said Schoshinski.

For more information on Friendship Circle, click here.

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