Sharon Dorsey, program director at Open Door Art Studio, said she suspected something was up when she received a call from Hollie Klem.
Klem, event coordinator at Elm & Iron home-furnishings store in Clintonville, said employees of the store planned to pay a visit Sept. 28 to the Grandview Heights studio.
"She was very cryptic," Dorsey said. "She said they were going to be bringing some sort of surprise and wanted to know how many people were going to be at the studio that day."
Klem said she told Dorsey that her store's employees would bring some snacks and take pictures with the studio's artists for the store's blog.
"We led them to believe we were going to bring a painting we wanted to donate to them in appreciation of all the great art that's created by their artists," she said.
When Elm & Iron representatives arrived at the studio, Klem carried what appeared to be a canvas under wraps.
But when Dorsey and studio registrar Claire Smith removed the wrapping, they discovered it wasn't a painting but a jumbo donation check for $5,000, written out to Open Door.
The art studio at 1050 Goodale Blvd. provides creative and gallery space for more than 100 individuals with mental and developmental disabilities.
Dorsey said the check was a "wonderful surprise."
"It was overwhelming," she said. "I kind of suspected maybe they would be bringing a donation because they've supported our studio so much in the past -- but this was above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
"It's so generous and will really make a big difference for our studio."
"We've made some smaller donations before, but we wanted to do something even more meaningful," Klem said. "We like to reach out to the community and we've supported a number of causes, like the fire department in Clintonville and the Franklin County Dog Shelter, but Open Door is first in our heart. This is the largest contribution we've made to an organization."
Elm & Iron's connection to Open Door began when Dorsey participated as an artist in a trunk show held at the store, she said.
After learning about Dorsey's work with Open Door, Klem and store owner Dan McClurg began visiting the art studio.
"Every time we visited, we were more impressed with what we found at Open Door," Klem said. "We loved the artists, we loved the studio and we loved the staff. You can tell it's more than just a job to them."
"There's so much joy here. You feel it when you walk through the door," McClurg said.
"The artists are so talented and the staff does so much to support and encourage them," he said. "I think some of the best artists in central Ohio are right here at Open Door Art Studio."
McClurg said he has bought many paintings created by Open Door artists.
"I've got about a dozen of them at my house and we display them at our store," he said.
"We want to bring as much attention to the studio as we can," McClurg said. "We want to encourage people to visit Open Door and they'll see what a special place it is -- and they'll find some of the most amazing artists anywhere."
Open Door believes that "creativity has no boundaries," Dorsey said.
Elm & Iron's donation will have a big impact on the studio, she said.
"It's going to help us buy more supplies for our artists, and more quality supplies," Dorsey said. "We'll be able to use this money to support visits our artists make to the Columbus Museum of Art and other museums and galleries. It's going to help us do more to support and promote our artists."
Open Door holds six to eight exhibitions of its artists' work each year.
The next show, "Are You Afraid of the Art," will display artwork featuring monsters, witches, zombies and other symbols of the Halloween season.
The exhibition will run Oct. 9-27, with an opening reception set from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the studio.
Open Door serves both as a creative space and gallery. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and on selected Saturdays for exhibitions and special sales.
For more information, visit www.opendoorartstudio.org.