Documentary and Book


Sheltered workshops and adult day programs offer vocational and rehabilitative services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Despite earnest efforts to “think ability first” workshops remain organized around people’s limitations and often fall short of community integration. Creative Abundance profiles the efforts of Patty Mitchell and Susan Dlouhy, activists who embrace an asset-based approach for organizational innovation and social change. Mitchell and Dlouhy envision workshops as spaces for creative activity and illustrate the power of art to imagine a future beyond the familiar. Creative Abundance documents how Mitchell and Dlouhy integrate art programming into workshops to foster human expression, develop individuals’ talents, and build community.

Produced by Lynn M. Harter, Evan Shaw and Margaret M. Quinlan. Associate Producers Thomas Hodson, Michael Broderick, and Kristen Okamoto. Assistant Producers Mark Brewer and Sonia Ivancic. In association with WOUB Public Media, The Courage of Creativity Initiative and The Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact.


"Creative Abundance, a documentary that opens your eyes and fills up your heart, provides an authentic look at what people can imagine and do. Through the work of innovators and imagineers Patty Mitchell and Susan Dlouhy we can be inspired to do more, make more, and play more. Creative Abundance captures the possibilities that we all need as we work with people in and through the arts." - Donna Collins, Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council

"The Creative Abundance Model speaks to the heart of every individual who dreams of expression or self-determination. And those who have not yet had that opportunity. Patty and Susan are creating a more inclusive, meaningful, and equal society. This work and documentary are changing institutional culture; they are building grassroots and grasstops advocates. It's a must see for anyone interested in opening up the possibilities of personal value and happiness." - Erin Hoppe, Executive Director, Very Special Arts Ohio

“The Creative Abundance Documentary film demonstrated, perfectly, a great approach to meeting an individual where they are at, in order to achieve maximum connection to the community.  The documentary’s demonstration of the use of individual expression and exploring interests and talents of people with disabilities was clear and effective.  It was evident from the documentary there are untapped abilities in people being exposed to this model.  The documentary clearly painted a clear picture that if individuals are allowed to chart their own course, they will succeed and exceed their potential.  The documentary has inspired our organization to explore new, more robust opportunities for the people we serve.  We intend to do so.” - Jim Allbaugh, Carey Services, Marion, Indiana

"This not-to-be-missed documentary will forever change how you think about the human spirit and the limits of our social values. With an uplifting lens, this film poignantly shows the contrast between assumptions and realized potential when people with intellectual disabilities are given wide artistic spaces in which to create genius. If I had a sheltered workshop that needed to be "upcycled," I would bring Susan and Patty in. Tomorrow."  - Ann Cameron Williams, PhD, CEO, ao Strategies, Chicago, IL



BY:  Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell

Upcycling Sheltered Workshops assesses prevailing practices in community-based facilities for people with developmental disabilities and argues that it is time for a fundamental change in the way these programs are run. Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell offer a revolutionary alternative, the Creative Abundance Model, and outline both its principles and its application. The new model turns sheltered workshops away from routine to creativity. 


Not just for workshoppers - Monday, June 1, 2015
This book has important things to say to people connected to sheltered workshops, either as givers of services or recipients of services. I am not one of those people. What I discovered is that this book has important things to say to EVERYONE! When we approach life from a position of the recognition that there is an abundance of creativity in ourselves and everyone around us, boredom is banished, the tedium of being vanishes, the way becomes open for every day to be pregnant with possibility, and each of us becomes excited with exploration and available to collaboration and fulfillment. The authors should re-title this book. May I humbly the suggest the following: "Upcycling Life: A Revolutionary Approach to Transforming Existence into Creative Discovery." Who wouldn't want to do that?

Must read - Tuesday, April 14, 2015
This book is a must read for people who work with individuals with disabilities. The pictures bring the text to life and add an extra special element to the book. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my co-workers and friends.

True Innovation for Sheltered Workshops and More - Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I know authentic when I read it. Dlouhy and Mitchell share the Abundance Model through their own hands-on experience and make it easy to take steps toward transforming organizations. The book makes the case that change is inevitable in the developmental disabilities world and provides a great road map to get it done. It's an easy read where the pictures tell the story.

Upcycled Sheltered Workshops - Saturday, April 11, 2015
This is a wonderful book. What the women who wrote it are doing is just incredible - and they are spreading the word all over the world. The full colour photographs are beautiful. The art is amazing. How real it is to help people who so many just write off, to become productive working artists making an income! And what a terrific way to upcycle discarded materials. I just love this book. Thank you Susan and Patty for the amazing work you do, and for this wonderful book.

Inspiring - Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I love this book! As someone who has worked in non-profit social service and art related fields for over 25 years, I am invigorated and inspired by the suggestions and vision that Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell share with us. Thank you!

Great Read! - Tuesday, March 24, 2015
This book is one of the most thoughtful and creative books I have read in a while. “Upcycling Sheltered Workshops” is the perfect book for anyone starting up or currently running their own adult vocational business.