Montana Casto and Scott Thompson have been great friends for years.

So when Casto decided on an ambitious undertaking for Developmental Services Inc.’s Education and Enrichment Program, Thompson was ready to help.

“We’ve been good friends for 15 or 16 years,” said Casto of his bond with Thompson.

Thompson agreed.

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“We’re as close as brothers,” he said. “We have our ups and downs like everyone, but we’ll always be great friends.”

Implemented in April at DSI in Seymour, the Education and Enrichment service model provides the platform and resources for clients of DSI to explore talents and interests, such as fine art, cooking, computer literacy, wellness and gardening.

The residual benefits of this process include greater community integration, team building, enhanced social and physical development and a sense of pride.

When watching them paint at DSI, it’s evident that art is a strong connection between Casto and Thompson, who both live in Seymour. They work in tandem on a grand scale with Casto occasionally offering tacit suggestions about color and composition.

“I’ve been painting since I was 6 years old,” Casto said. “My mother taught me. We’re the artists in the family.”

Not surprisingly, Thompson said he appreciates the new skills he is learning from his longtime friend.

“Montana has taught me a lot about painting,” Thompson said. “As soon as he said he wanted to do the paintings, I asked if I could help him.”

The large murals, which stand around 8 feet tall and run the length of the creative space, serve as an ideal backdrop for showcasing the talents of other clients.

“Everyone loves the new atmosphere here,” said Laura Keith, day program manager for DSI in Jackson County. “Montana invites anyone to participate in the murals. He has taught several of the clients how to paint. They are known around here as Montana’s assistants. Scott is the lead assistant.”

Keith said every couple of months, clients vote on a new mural design to replace the ones currently decorating the walls.

“The clients have a lot of ownership in this space now, and they are learning how to paint and work together,” she said.

But the greatest benefit of the painting project afforded through the program may well be the confidence it has given to the artists themselves.

“Montana is more outgoing now, and his personality is really shining through,” his mother, Glenda Walker, said. “He likes to help people, and his art is a way for him to do that.”

After they complete their third wall-sized mural, an ocean scene with palm trees, Casto and Thompson plan to start some artistic commercial endeavors.

“We were thinking about dyeing T-shirts and jeans to sell,” Casto said. “We’d also like to teach the clients to paint.”

Keith said the program allows DSI clients to find their interests and develop skills.

“Some like painting,” she said. “Some have a passion of paper mache.”

DSI provides the clients with the resources to try out whatever interest they might have and give them time to do it.

DSI has contracts with companies to provide assembly, packaging and special services, such as gauging, inspecting, disassembling, sorting and stamping.

When there is a slowdown in work, the clients are allowed to participate in the education and enrichment time.

Keith said they also can come in in the morning and opt to work in the program, which is called Making Space, or go to work.

DSI is a nonprofit organization that provides services for adults and children with mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

At a glance

How you can help

Developmental Services Inc. is seeking a range of donated items for its creative “Making Space” of its new Education and Enrichment Program.

  • Various fabrics (cotton, upholstery fabric, sheets, curtains, bedspreads)
  • Thread, yarn, embroidery thread
  • Embroidery hoops
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Plastic containers
  • Brown paper grocery bags
  • Wrapping paper
  • Buttons
  • Beads
  • Costume jewelry
  • Lace and ribbon
  • Craft materials
  • CDs
  • Objects to paint, including wooden furniture, tables, chairs, lamp shades
  • Sand paper and sanding blocks

Items can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Information: 812-522-7676 or dsiservices.org

About: Developmental Services Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides services for adults and children with mental, physical and emotional disabilities