After nearly 40 years of providing the Long Beach community with accessible art services, Able ARTS Work has purchased its first home.

Following launching its ambitious capital campaign in November, 2020 for $2 million, founder and CEO Helen Dolas was determined to combat the property displacement that was facing her organization.

“To have a home of our own really mitigates that kind of displacement,” said Dolas. “We know that we’re going to be there, we’re going to be safe, we don’t have to move our services, people know where to find us.”

Throughout its history of providing creative art services and art therapy to individuals with disabilities, the nonprofit has moved nearly every decade, often due to climbing rent prices, each time having to navigate finding a safe location that is fully accessible and allows its over 3,000 clients each year to flourish creatively, explained Dolas.

Its fifth and final home on Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls will not only save the organization $76,000 each year in rent fees, but will allow Able ARTS Work to be at the heart of both a community-centric and art-centric neighborhood, said Dolas.

“The visibility is so great for our students and our families and for the community,” she said. “It’s going to provide us also with additional opportunities for sustainability and revenue for Able ARTS Work as a nonprofit, so we can continue to expand into our work, but also in providing those services for even more people.”

For Dolas, purchasing a home for her organization has been a dream since the nonprofit’s birth, and it could not be more exciting for her and Able ARTS Work’s participants, she said.

“Everyone was dancing,” she said, explaining that many participants have already submitted ideas to be incorporated into the new space.

Apart from the building’s regular services during the day, Dolas intends for the new building to be a home for community gathering, not only offering free art and wellness workshops, but professional development for counselors, teachers, therapists, and community healthcare providers, she said.

“It’s going to be really significant and give us that opportunity to really grow our services in a very permanent way,” said Dolas.  “We’re generating art-driven inclusion opportunities for adults with disabilities and underserved minority populations, and so with this larger building, we’ll be able to expand our community services and promote social cohesiveness and address the mental and emotional health issues in our community.”

After completing Phase 1 of its capital campaign by raising over $1 million to put a 50% down payment on the building, located at 3841 Atlantic Ave., and secure a bank loan for another $1.25 million (largely thanks to private donors and grants including $1 million from the John Gogian Family Foundation) Dolas is eager for Phase 2, which is to raise another $1 million for renovations, making the building accessible for its participants.

A rendering of the new Able Arts Work building at 3841 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls. Courtesy image.

With renovation plans potentially finalized in July, Dolas hopes that construction will begin in August, just in time for the organization’s official 40th anniversary, potentially moving into the new location in January or February.

Able ARTS Work has had a busy few months; apart from realizing Dolas’ 40-year vision for her organization, the nonprofit has focused on its expansion in San Diego, as well as continuing to develop its Learn for Life platform that has reached people in 79 countries and 47 states, plus its monthly student podcast, Artbeat Radio, with nearly 80,000 unique visitors last year, said Dolas.

And in the meantime, it is continuing to provide artistic career path opportunities to artists of all abilities, while bridging connections and fostering creativity.

“Back in the day, it used to be where these individuals were isolated . . . (without being) afforded the chance to make friends and to feel a community and belonging,” said Dolas. “Our mission is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and it’s love before learning and being able to offer the space where people can feel safe, and be respected and be treated with dignity and feel like they have a place where they belong, where they can achieve creative goals.

“Able ARTS Work really provides that space where those synergies can occur naturally, and it’s all about life transformation,” said Dolas. “And we use the arts to create that bridge.”

Contribute to Able ARTS Work’s capital campaign.