Even if they don’t have much experience with a paintbrush, Ranch Ehrlo staff member Dustin Ritter knows how to bring out the inner artist.  

This past year, Ritter has been busy working with participants on various art projects. The standouts this year, he said, were the couple of murals they completed.  

“We’ve had really good participation with those because I think the participants get excited to be involved in something that they can show people and tell them they helped create,” said Ritter, who works with Ranch Ehrlo’s Paper Crane program. “It’s something I’ve really enjoyed because I like when they take ownership.” 

Paper Crane offers therapeutic arts programming, providing Ranch participants with a space for creativity, creation, self-expression, and wellness. At Paper Crane, Ritter holds workshops with participants across the agency.  

One of the murals this year features superheroes and the second is a garden. Ritter said what makes them special is that they are available for everyone to see.  

“Doing art can be a simple way to build confidence, especially in the group setting where people of all skill levels are coming together to create something great,” he said. “It’s accessible to every level of development.” 

Like all staff at the Ranch, Ritter uses CARE principles when working with participants. He makes sure the activities are challenging enough to meet their needs while ensuring the environment supports growth.  

For example, if a participant is struggling with painting larger strokes, he’ll see if they’re comfortable dabbing a dot. Once a few dots are painted, they’ll start to see the picture come through.  

“Just single small dots make larger works, and so it’s really easy to work around,” Dustin explained.  

If he notices a participant is artistically gifted, he said he’ll make sure they grow their skills. This also helps him form closer relationships. 

“I can help them out and we bond on this shared experience. It’s something we can now talk about more often,” he said.