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Lou Anne Michel shows off her artwork in front of Believe It Studio on 2nd Street in downtown Ashland

ASHLAND -- Lou Anne Michel opened Believe It Studio around two years ago in downtown Ashland as a haven that allows children from all walks of life to express themselves through creativity and artwork.

Those who enter her domain are met with bright-colored sculptures and one-of-a-kind displays.

Located at 11 1/2 2nd Street, Believe It Studio hosts classes for children with special needs who desire a chance to create something unique.  When it comes to art, Michel strives to let the children take the wheel.

“I don’t tell them what to do," Michel said. "I get out of the way and let them catch the joy! 

"That’s what it should be about.”

Michel was an LPN in the service. From there, she ended up working as an art instructor at Richland Newhope, where she taught various students with disabilities to express themselves however they see fit. 

Not only does she teach classes at her studio in Ashland, Michel also teaches at Dale Roy and Julie Billiart School in Akron. The students she instructs at Believe It Studio are familiar with exclusive projects.

One such venture has children smash a guitar off of a rock (safely, of course), and use the broken pieces to create something new. Michel highlighted one distinctive experience she had with a particular student.

“I have this one kid who doesn’t talk," Michel said. "When he did his guitar sculpture, he took wood and crossed the hole in the guitar out.

"It was really interesting!”

Approximately 80 percent of Michel's art supplies are donated, and many aren't typically found inside an art room. She has a backroom filled to the brim with bulk and unique materials, including game boards, toys, musical instruments, fence posts, shoes and more.

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According to Michel, her basement is just as packed. She enjoys spending her time thrifting through clearance aisles and going-out-of-business sales, all while looking for a piece she can utilize to teach.

Personally, Michel draws inspiration from greats such as Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe, Michelangelo, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani. Her guitar-styled artwork has become quite recognizable, but it didn't come without hard work.

“My personal cartooning has made it into three magazines now," Michel said. "It’s hard to do!

"You know, you go through about 160 rejections just for a few OK’s.”

Michel holds summer classes at Believe It Studio on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for $5 per class. She runs a special where if one kid brings three friends, he or she does not have to pay the $5 charge.

Several pieces of artwork at Believe It Studio are currently for sale.

For more information about her personal artwork or to acquire information about classes, call Michel at 419-589-9912.