MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Area residents are learning the importance of having art in one’s life thanks to a partnership between Hope Network and Artworks.

Now entering their fourth year of collaboration, the two organizations are working together to provide clients with Hope Network — an organization which provides a range of services to people in Mecosta and Osceola counties who experience physical, mental and social barriers — a chance to stretch their creative muscles and practice different forms of art, from painting to basket weaving, to oil pastels and playing music.

“Joyful Art,” an exhibit on display in the Batdorff and Chemical Bank galleries in Artworks, showcases these efforts by displaying pieces created by Hope Network artists with the help of Artworks educators.

Taylor Logan, program manager at Hope Network, said the program at Artworks has been a wonderful experience for the people who come to Hope Network for different services.

“They do a ton of really great art,” he said. “It’s also tactile, and it’s therapeutic. Art really is important to life.”

Through the program, Hope Network clients go to Artworks twice a month throughout the year to work on pieces for the exhibit, which change each year.

Artworks Executive Director Lynne Scheible said the program with Hope Network began with the help of a grant through the Chemical Bank Foundation.

Since its inception, the program has received additional funding through organizations such as the Michigan Council for the Arts. It now will be funded by the Osceola County Community Foundation.

“They’re wonderful about supporting our community,” Scheible said.

Although the theme for the art project changes each year, the exhibit currently on display consists of different animals created through a variety of mixed-media.

People may view the exhibit from now until Jan. 31.

Scheible said the Hope Network program is one of her favorite activities Artworks offers, as it makes art accessible to people who don’t always have the same ability to view and participate in art as others.

“That’s what a community arts center is for — providing art for everybody,” she said.

Logan said, in addition to the program being a fun opportunity for Hope Network clients, the exhibit also is a good way for other area residents to learn about what the nonprofit does and who is involved.

“The program is fantastic because it is great exposure for our folks to see something outside of what they normally do,” he said. “It’s also great for our community to experience what we have going on here.”

While the Artworks and Hope Network collaboration is fun for all involved, Logan said the organization also offers many other services to those who need them.

“We provide community living support, job training and we provide people with jobs,” he said.

He said Hope Network is a statewide nonprofit organization, but the local branch, in Paris, serves about 150 people throughout Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Logan said Hope Network connects participants with jobs through various contracted partners, such as Yoplait, Ferris State University, the city of Big Rapids, Big Rapids Housing, Mecosta County Parks, Tullymore Golf Resort and more.

“A lot of people don’t know where all of us work,” he said. “In the next year we are really trying to show the community how beneficial we are to the community and how beneficial our clients are to the community.”

From continuing to participate in the Artworks program to beginning to plan events such as a golf outing and 5K, Logan said his goal is to bridge the gap between Hope Network clients and the surrounding community.

“This is one step toward breaking down barriers that sometimes exist,” he said.

For more information on the services Hope Network provides, visit hopenetwork.org.