Open Hearts Art Center is a nonprofit based in Asheville, North Carolina. We are a supportive studio and gallery dedicated to representing and empowering adults with varied abilities to connect to and reach their full potential through the arts.

 

Founded in 2005, Open Hearts Art Center was modeled after other creative communities across the country that prioritize the arts as a main communication tool for artists and arts-curious adults with varied abilities. Our center hires professional artists and seasoned caregivers to offer artistic support. Open Hearts Art Center encourages each artist to reflect on their personal story as inspiration for their work in its fully equipped visual and performing arts studios. 

 

Works are for sale in our gallery, as well as shown throughout the year publicly at various exhibits and venues. Art sales are split 50/50 between the artist and center to cover operational costs.

DIRECTORS

Debbie Harris

Debbie Harris

Debbie Harris, Co-Founder and Director of Art & Events, has called Asheville, NC her home since 2002. After graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Appalachian State University, she began volunteering at an art-based day program for adults with...

Jessie Francis

Jessie Francis

​Jessie Francis studied Human Services at Montreat College and ended her time there with an internship with a young artist who had autism. (Peep a painting of his in her office today.) That led to working with other adults living with various developmental...

Sonia Pitts

Sonia Pitts

Sonia Pitts is a native of Asheville, where she grew up taking art classes from local instructors in early childhood. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Asheville in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, where she focused on Creative Arts...

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cindy Wolff

Cindy Wolff

Over the course of a 30 year career as a social worker, Cindy Wolff has served many individuals with developmental disabilities, aging population, and individuals with mental health issues. Starting her career as a as a case manager for Blue Ridge Center to being the...

Connie Falcone

Connie Falcone

Connie moved to Asheville in 2015 after retiring from a career that included special education teacher, therapist, social worker, and administrator for the City of Philadelphia’s Intellectual Disabilities Services. Her retirement dream was to volunteer in an arts...

Emily Danciu-Grosso

Emily Danciu-Grosso

Emily Danciu-Grosso has a wealth of experience supporting individuals with disabilities in different areas of life from employment to housing. She has been in the field for 11 years. Some of her work includes developing a health and wellness program with the Arc of...

Leisa Rundquist

Leisa Rundquist

Leisa Rundquist is a professor of art history at UNC Asheville who specializes in the fields of modern, contemporary, and self-taught art. She recently published the book, The Power and Fluidity of Girlhood in Henry Darger's Art and is currently involved with...

STAFF

Anne Wray

Anne Wray

Anne Wray was born in Kentucky. She attended Warren Wilson College in the early 80s, majoring in fine arts and minoring in religion. She fell in love with the area, and after graduating, made Asheville her home and never left. She has worked in many jobs, including...

Ashley Riddle

Ashley Riddle

Local to the area, born and raised in Marion, NC, Ashley studied special education and recreation management at Appalachian State University. She is attending the MSW program at WCU, starting in fall 2021, to become a LCSW. Ashley plans to continue to work with...

Bri Gelsinger

Bri Gelsinger

Co-Program Manager and On-Site Qualified Professional Bri attended Fresno State in California for five years, studying for her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and in the Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling program. After school, she worked for 5 years...

Bryan Ottaviano

Bryan Ottaviano

Senior Program Manager and On-Site Qualified Professional Bryan is a performer, writer, healer, director, and choreographer, hailing from New England. He has been working in professional theatre for nearly twenty years. Some of his favorite roles include Horatio in...

Colby Deal

Colby Deal

Colby is a musician and artist who joined Open Hearts Art Center in May 2021. Originally from Alabama, he moved to Asheville in 2016 after visiting and falling in love with the music and art community. When he discovered Open Hearts Art Center, he saw his passion of...

Deanna Cashel

Deanna Cashel

Deanna grew up on a farm in a small town, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. She has always been a giver and a nurturer, so she decided to pursue becoming a therapist. Deanna then moved to Radford, Virginia and got a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in German from Radford...

Kendra Hamman

Kendra Hamman

Kendra is from Colorado and came to Asheville in 2016. She has been at Open Hearts for three years and has found so much joy working with our artists! Kendra has a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and loves getting her hands messy using a variety of mediums. She is...

Lyric Powers

Lyric Powers

Lyric is a native Ohioan but has lived in Western NC since 2002 with her partner and child (b. 2003). She has a background in design, having worked as a freelance web and graphic designer for over ten years before shifting into a caregiving career. In 2014, she began...

Melissa Down

Melissa Down

Studio Manager Melissa is originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. She moved to South Carolina in 1994 and received her Studio Art Degree from Columbia College in 1998. After some time adventuring in Canada and Vermont, Melissa moved back south,...

Salley Williamson

Salley Williamson

Development and Communications Specialist Salley Williamson grew up in the lowcountry of South Carolina. After high school, she migrated to Montana, where she lived for 10 years before moving to Asheville in 2008. She received a BA in Social Work from Carroll College...

Seth McPherson

Seth McPherson

Seth is an Asheville native and grew up with an older brother on the Autism Spectrum. Seth doesn't consider himself an artist but deeply appreciates the creative endeavors of others and loves to encourage those he works with in their pursuits. In his free time he...

Sidney Guida

Sidney Guida

Sidney began working at OHAC Spring 2016, after volunteering for two years. She always had it in her hopes, and the time was right. Sidney is semi-retired, which means she brings a variety of experiences with her. Her basket of experiences includes a BFA in Fine Art...

Talia Scarpelli

Talia Scarpelli

Talia Scarpelli joined Open Hearts in April 2017 after several months of volunteering and getting to know the many artists. Previously, Talia studied art at the University of Alabama, where she wrote political cartoons for the school newspaper and did graphic design...

Tara Brummett

Tara Brummett

Qualified Professional Tara Brummett is an Asheville native, who became a part of Open Hearts Art Center in August of 2015. Tara enjoys spending time on the water with her husband, son, and faithful pup-panion. She has a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from Mars Hill...

Tom Preston

Tom Preston

Tom has been working in the mental health field since 1984. Most of his time was spent as a substance abuse counselor for the Buncombe County mental health entity Blue Ridge Center in the Intensive Outpatient program, the Neil Dobbins Detox Center, and in the Opioid...