TSE, Inc. was founded in 1961 to provide day services for people with disabilities. “Family members were choosing to keep children at home and not place them in institutions. We were leaders at that time,” Lynne Megan, President/CEO said. Today, TSE serves approximately 300 people, primarily in Ramsey County, and works with 80 employers who hire individuals to work independently or in enclaves run by TSE.
Employment Advisor Jeff Myhre came to TSE after working as a professional actor. Now he helps some exceptionally creative clients explore careers in art, dance and weaving.
TSE has always encouraged creativity. They have sold more than a thousand garden stones made by the people in their program, along with spin art greeting cards and fire starters. These “TSE Treasures” are available through the TSE website and at special events like the Friends School Garden Sale.
“We’re much more accepting of diversity as a society and would like to see the growth of the art and the art culture. There are many, many possibilities. We will do our best to help emerge those possibilities,” Megan said.
How did your work with artists come about?
Myhre: Part of what we do in job development is to ask people, “What are you most proud of? What’s your greatest accomplishment?” When I started working with Lao Xiong, it was really obvious that art was his passion. He’s so incredible. Lao didn’t pick up a pencil until he was 19. He wrote poetry first. Then he started drawing flowers around the poems. That’s how that whole thing started. He’s now 33. I felt like he needed to have a gallery show.
How do you find opportunities in the arts for your clients?
Myhre: I used to be an actor, and I had the bright idea to meet with my theatrical agent, Jeanette Poole. I met with her and said, “I have all these talented people. Can you steer me in a direction to help these people find gigs?” One of the people that I was talking about is an incredible dancer. Not too long after we talked, we brought him to Jeannette’s office. He got up and danced around, and Jeannette signed him. We took him on one audition — it was cool. George Roberts, who runs Homewood Studios, is Jeanette’s brother. That’s how Lao’s show came about.
Was Lao Xiong’s gallery show a success?
Myhre: He sold 13 or 14 pieces. On the way home, he said out loud, “I wonder what’s next for me?” That really spoke volumes about Lao perhaps taking his place as an artist.
Myhre: We recently got a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to partner with the Weaver’s Guild. They are going to be teaching people saori weaving. It’s weaving that has no right or wrong. We had a short demonstration session — it really opened people up to being creative and productive.
Do you worry about how your clients will handle the rejection that comes with artistic careers?
Megan: We give people a lot of support. That’s part of our job. It’s actually one of the beauties of people with disabilities — their ability to go with the flow is amazing. Their highs are high but their lows aren’t as low. Their acceptance is really good. It’s what I learn from people on a daily basis.
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