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Abstract Expressionism

Andy Ouriel • Jan 17, 2014 at 6:20 PM

“They’re just abstracts,” said Alex Miller, even though he visualizes items such as flowers and trees prior to creating the vibrant pieces. “They have no real image to them”

But others relishing in Miller’s abilities know the paintings do produce a clear picture: one of a motivated man seeking to gain independence through his artwork.

Miller, 27, receives assistance through the Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities.    

The 2005 EHOVE Career Center graduate participates in a board-sponsored program called individual budgets, in which officials provide funding — through taxpayer dollars — for goods and services clients desire.

Erie County is one of the only counties in Ohio offering individual budgets, a tool proven to help people with disabilities become more independent. The budgets have helped others obtain driver’s licenses, wheelchair upgrades, nutritional supplements and other items they couldn’t buy or afford on their own.

In Miller’s case, he leveraged almost $1,800 from the board to launch his own art business.

The funds first helped Miller develop a business plan, outlining how he can sell his paintings, drawings, prints and even personally designed greeting cards.

But an individual budget also allowed Miller to pursue a career he’s passionate about.

“When I paint, I can just focus on that, and I don’t have to worry about all the problems I have to deal with or with other people” said Miller, who’s created hundreds of pieces. “I’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I went to art classes and some vocational programs for design. I just want to keep learning”

Miller’s motives personify the individual budget program, said Becky Criswell, a board services and support administrator.

“Our mission is to serve our individuals in the areas where they are passionate about,” Criswell said. “For Alex, art is something that he can really embrace and make a future out of. This is something he has wanted to do his whole life, and the county board can assist in getting him a good start”

Criswell, as part of Miller’s budget, hired local artist Diane Chevalier to provide Miller with some guidance.

Chevalier and Miller meet about once a week to follow through on Miller’s business plan by scheduling him to attend area art shows. Chevalier also provides Miller with some creative guidance as he furthers his art career.

“You can see the passion in his work” said Chevalier, who holds a degree in graphic design. “His work really carries over well to the cards and print because the colors really pop out. Some of the cards even look like they are hand-painted because there is so much detail in them”

Today, Miller’s developing an artistic series dubbed “The Element Series,” in which he repurposes actual roof slates and integrates them into oil paintings.

“I don’t know every detail right away, but you have to have some plan or some inspiration for your plan to work” Miller said.

And this philosophy jibes with what everyone wants for Miller.

“Alex has helped touched the world by inspiring someone else to pursue their dreams, even if it’s not art” Criswell said.

Anyone interested in buying Miller’s work or scheduling him for a show can call 419-359-1865.

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