Lines, shapes and color can be more effective than conversation at forming bonds between people.

Art is a powerful tool for expressing personality. People who seemingly have nothing in common can connect over a painting or sculpture. That’s one of the reasons why it has long played a part at Hammer in Wayzata.

When Hammer was still a campus for the developmentally disabled with dormitories where people lived and a school where they learned, the residents took art classes, and learned how to weave and make crafts, said Ellen Timmerman-Borer, chief development officer at Hammer.

“It was a part of the culture,” she said.

After the organization decentralized in the 1980s and the people it served moved to homes within the local communities, Hammer’s donors and volunteers have continued to help people with a fondness for art pursue their interest.

“We focus on people’s abilities,” Timmerman-Borer said. “They have many gifts and talents that they bring to the table.”

Hammer supporters have helped people with developmental disabilities take art classes through community education programs, participate in activities at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts and have invited volunteers with a knowledge of art to visit with the people they serve. Timmerman-Borer said they also participate in chamber events such as James J. Hill Days and the Wayzata Art Experience by displaying and selling art, with all of the money going back to the artist.

Taking classes and being a part of local events helps people with developmental disabilities become part of the community, she said. It’s also a way for the community to embrace them.

“It’s about inclusion,” Timmerman-Borer said. “We can see our similarities through art.”

Classes and art supplies can be expensive, and many of the people that Hammer serves don’t make enough money to afford them on their own. The organization’s Quality of Life Fund helps them pursue their interests. The fund isn’t just for artists, it also helps people partake in other hobbies as well as pay for winter coats or dental costs that aren’t covered by insurance.

Hammer held an event Dec. 1 at the organization’s central office in Wayzata as a thank you to its donors. The theme was “Because of You I Can!” and the event focused on how financial support improves the quality of life of the people served by Hammer. Hanging on the walls were artwork created by local artists with developmental disabilities. The artists were also in attendance to thank donors and talk about their work. The artwork will likely be up until the New Year, and members of the public are invited to stop by the building to take a look at it, Timmerman-Borer said.

“It’s a way for us to share our story,” she said.

The Hammer story is deeply rooted in Wayzata and the surrounding communities. In addition to the families of the people served by the organization, much of the support the organization receives comes from local sources.

“We are really blessed to be in this community; it has been very generous,” Timmerman-Borer said.


Amanda Schwarze is a Lakeshore reporter who is passionate about local government and nonprofit projects. She is thoughtful and independent. Amanda loves traveling, cooking and spending time with her boyfriend and their two cats (Buddy Guy and Spotacus).