The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson), often simply referred to as “the Rebbe,” possessed an unconditional love towards others that knew no bounds. His belief that none of us is complete unless all of us are included is the single concept that motivates the Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization that provides “every individual with special needs the support friendship and inclusion that they deserve.”
Supporting this mission, the Farber Soul Center at 5586 Drake Road in West Bloomfield is Friendship Circle’s newest facility, which extends its programming into the lives of adults with special needs through the culinary, digital and traditional arts.
“Many parents were saying that their now adult children had outgrown Ferber Kaufman LifeTown [another local Friendship Circle facility], and upon graduation, many adults with challenges find themselves isolated, so this location is aimed for those 18 years and older,” Friendship Circle’s Executive Director Bassie Shemtov explained.
Within the Soul Center, there is Soul Studio, a studio art program for adults with special needs that responds to each participant's unique physical and cognitive conditions. The Soul Studio staff is comprised of professional artists and designers who can support Soul Studio artists in a variety of art media, including painting, drawing, ceramics, weaving, sculpture, woodworking, photography and digital arts– all while providing participants with a sense of confidence, independence and community.
“Many of the artists at Soul Studio are driven by a love for materials,” Programs and Exhibitions Manager Anthony Marcellini said. “The feel, the sound and the look of materials drives the form and subject of the artwork. Very often this translates to Soul artists reusing discarded or disregarded objects, from plastic bottles and cans, to scrap wood and metal, to pieces of fabric and used clothing. For many Soul artists, these neglected materials serve as an inspiration for new creative productions. Artists see these objects not as waste or trash but as things with value whose qualities guide the form of the sculptural object they become.”
The artwork made by Soul artists are exhibited in Soul Gallery, the Soul Center’s professionally-curated exhibition space, which is visited by hundreds of people every week. In addition to holding four or five exhibitions a year at their own gallery (“There is a Fly in My Soup” is currently running!), Soul Studio also produces and participates in several outside institutions’ exhibitions, as well, including the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“Not only do these exhibitions give each Soul artist the chance to see the public’s reaction to their work and speak about their artistic process, but they also receive a commission from all sales,” Shemtov said. “Everything is salable, and we even have an online store.”
Another opportunity for adults with special needs at Soul Center is vocational training and employment at the Soul Cafe, an in-house restaurant that offers guests a mouthwatering kosher menu that features gourmet soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and more in a warm, relaxed environment. The Soul Cafe Trainee Program allows these individuals the opportunity to work in an active restaurant environment, learning skills like food prepping, cooking, hosting and serving, which will hopefully lead to jobs outside of the Soul Center in the future.
“Miracles have happened here,” Shemtov said, smiling. “Whether tiny or big, these miracles are truly changing people’s lives.”
For more information about Friendship Circle or more specifically the Farber Soul Center, visit friendshipcircle.org/soul or call (248)-788-7400.