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Refusing to let disabilities limit them, local artists with special needs use unique technique to create benches for JoCo. parks

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An art program for adults with special needs is about to make your life a little easier.

At InterUrban Art House at 80th and Newton in downtown Overland Park, they are making benches and other strong, study things made of paper mixed with concrete. It’s called papercrete, and you will soon see the benches they've created at parks throughout Johnson County.

The workers come from the Department of Development Supports, and they gave Fox 4  a behind-the-scenes look at how they make them. Check that out in the video player above.

They do the messy work inside the former Johnson County Crime Lab off Martway and Lamar in Mission where they first shred newspaper and mix it in a blender with water. That liquid pulp is then mixed with powdered concrete in a mixer, then poured into a mold where it sits, dries and becomes hard. The finished product is a bench that the artists then paint.

"All I hear about is how much fun it is," employment specialist Michah Wickstrom said. "I often feel like a rockstar walking to the main floor because people will see me and say Micah, can I come to papercrete. So it’s a really cool thing. I’m super proud to be a part of it."

The county is commissioning these workers with special needs to make benches for several parks in Johnson County for everyone to use. Besides benches, they also make other works of art such as bowls and other decorative items.

The items are for sale at the InterUrban Art House, a non-profit organization. The public is invited to stop by during the week, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. to look at their work.

They’re hoping to eventually take special orders on these benches and make them for anniversaries and other special events.