A Swallow Press Book

Upcycling Sheltered Workshops
A Revolutionary Approach to Transforming Workshops into Creative Spaces

By Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell
Foreword by Lynn M. Harter

“The Creative Abundance Model is the innovative core of Upcycling Sheltered Workshops. With Susan and Patty’s approach, life happens, creativity is realized, and authentic engagement becomes the norm. Upcycling beats recycling every single day when it comes to people.”

Donna S. Collins, Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council

At a time when the traditional sheltered workshop model has fallen under rightful criticism, and a new paradigm for disability programming is not yet in place, Upcycling Sheltered Workshops offers a revolutionary alternative. As many push to dismantle sheltered workshops, Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell present the Creative Abundance Model, a proven method that redirects sheltered workshops from routine to creativity, putting participants in the driver’s seat.

The Creative Abundance Model does away with the repetitive tasks that characterize traditional workshops. Instead, it is a structured but more open program that incorporates art, music, and other creative pursuits, freeing participants to discover their individual skills and talents. The authors both advocate for the model and provide instructions for implementing it, outlining such steps as obtaining funding, gaining the support and participation of the surrounding community, and preparing studios. Case studies from around the nation and inspiring photographs illustrate Dlouhy and Mitchell’s methods and document the many ways in which participants in Creative Abundance thrive.


Susan Dlouhy is the president of Norwich Consulting Services, where she helps sheltered workshops convert their programming to the Creative Abundance Model.

Patty Mitchell is an artist and social innovator specializing in collaborations between artists with and without perceived differences and in transforming sheltered workshops into creative spaces.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Lynn M. Harter
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. The Movement toward the Creative Abundance Model
  • 2. The Evolution
  • 3. The Revolution
  • 4. The Creative Abundance Model Framework
  • 5. Stages
    • Granting Permission
    • Funding
    • Staff Acceptance and Implementation
    • Your Waitress Doesn’t Eat Your Food
    • Power to the People
    • Community Partnerships
    • Culture Shift
    • Expectations Shift
    • Environment
    • Continuous Evolution of Discovery
    • The Nature of Attraction
    • Share the Abundance
  • 6. What We Have Learned
  • Meet the Authors

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Related Subjects

Disability Studies · Social Work · Psychology - Creative Ability · Art Education