Artists First STL

In a Nutshell

Artists First is a non-profit organization that fosters growth in individuals with disabilities through creative self-expression. Our organizational mission is ART: Acceptance, Respect, Trust.  Artists First offers art-based programs throughout the greater Saint Louis area serving aspiring artists of all ages whose lives are challenged by developmental disabilities, pervasive mental illness, and/or traumatic brain injury.  Artists First is seeking donations, volunteer assistance as well as applicants to participate in the program.

Project Information


Programs at Artists First STL

Adult Open Studio
The Adult Open Studio fosters independence through creative self-expression for adults with pervasive mental illness, developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury. The purpose of the program is to give people with disabilities the opportunity to access, explore, and grow through experimentation with a myriad of art forms.

Lifeworks is a guided self-employment program. This program gives professionally minded artists with disabilities the chance to create art as a career. Artists First staff vigorously seeks out opportunities locally, regionally, and nationally to display, market and sell Lifeworks participants' artwork.

Life in Art: Lifebooking Program
Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Resource Office of Saint Louis City (DDR), Artists First’s Life in Art: Lifebooking Program serves children (ages 10 plus), youth and adults residing in St. Louis City who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability.

Youth Open Studio
To foster youth independence, Artists First has developed the Teen Open Studio, a weekly drop-in studio for teens with and without disabilities. During this time artists are given free rein of the center to experiment with a wide variety of mediums and techniques in a holistic atmosphere. It is through this freedom to explore and experiment that artists begin to find their own unique vision and passions. Throughout the process of creating art they are interfacing with their peers and Artists First staff and volunteers, enhancing their communication and interpersonal skills. This serves to encourage a greater sense of self-worth, self-reliance, and ultimately their independence.

Artists First for Veterans
After conducting focus groups with local veterans, reviewing research and using lessons learned from our current programs, we developed this art program specifically for current and former Armed Service members. We have seen firsthand the healing affects art can have on individuals with a variety of needs such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injury and or for individuals who require a supportive outlet to process their unique experiences and personal stories.


Artists First is seeking both participants for their programs and volunteers.  You can find forms to register for the programs or to volunteer here.

There are several ways you can assist Artists First financially.  You can donate or participate in shopping rewards programs.  Learn more here.



The programs offered by Artists First align with the following goals and objectives in OneSTL:

     OneSTL Theme: Inclusive
     Goal 4: Improve access to opportunities.
          Objective: Increase opportunities for all youth to have high quality, meaningful, safe access to education, job training, art physical activity, and social interactions.

     OneSTL Theme: Educated
     Goal 1: Improve overall quality of education.
          Objective: Prepare persons with disabilities to be active members of society.
     Goal 5: Increase opportunities for life-long learning for all citizens.
          Objective: Broaden public involvement with cultural and art institutions, which provide informal education related to arts, culture, heritage, sustainability, and the environment.


Sheila Suderwalla, MSW - Executive Director

7190 Manchester Rd, Maplewood, MO 63143
Contact page.


More InformationMore Information