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Art With Heart: Missouri Girl’s Upcycling Talents Benefit St. Louis Area Nonprofit

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When 12-year-old Nora Robertson found a bench in need of some TLC at a metro area resale boutique, she decided to breathe life back into it with her artistic talents. Now, this young Missourian’s creative spirit is benefiting that local shop and the kids it helps.

Miriam Switching Post, a primarily volunteer-staffed store selling donated furnishings, funds Miriam School and Learning Center, where the mission is to empower “unique learners by building confidence and a foundation for success.” According to the nonprofit’s website, “Miriam students often have challenges such as learning disabilities, [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder], autism, anxiety and sensory processing differences. Miriam supports students with individualized curriculum, small class sizes, and integrated speech and occupational therapy.”

Robertson, who lives in Nixa, Missouri, in the Springfield metro area, frequently visits St. Louis to see family and often stops into the nearby Switching Post. “I was in the shop with my family one day,” she recalls. “My dad and I had an idea to do a craft show, and I found a bench I thought I could paint. My dad repairs [the furniture], and I … paint it and put a cool design on it.”

Seeing Robertson lend her artistry to the Switching Post’s goods gave manager Roy Wunsch an idea.

“Nora had taken an interest in Miriam’s mission because she has a brother who is autistic, [and she] had purchased a chair that she repurposed and made into a piece of functional art,” he explains.

As a result, Wunsch decided to give her an assortment of the Switching Post’s well-used, hard-to-sell items, including a china cabinet, a wine table, a bench, a magazine rack, bar stools, chairs and a small table, and requested that she “work her magic” on the furnishings, and then return them to display and sell at the store.

In May, the shop hosted “Nora Robertson: Reimagined Inspiration” to exhibit and sell her pieces and, just like all sales at the Switching Post, help fund Miriam School and Learning Center’s tuition assistance program. Almost every brightly colored, whimsically designed piece that Robertson used her “magic” on has sold.

Robertson, who notes that she takes artistic inspiration from animals and landscapes, says she has been an artist for as long as she can remember – and she loves to use her gift to give back. “Every year, me and my brother do a charity [project],” she explains, noting the project helping Miriam made her feel great.

After the Robertson family “fell in love with stuff [the Switching Post] gets donated and their mission, we have always wanted to support them as much as we can,” notes Nora’s father, David Robertson.

Following the younger Robertson’s first appearance at the shop, Wunsch commended her incredible talent, noting: “The opening reception and having Nora meet customers and donors gave [her] a great chance to blossom and get to see the many possibilities her talent may have in store for her.”

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Since the successful opening, Robertson has been named the Switching Post’s first artist-in-residence and is set to return periodically to share her imaginative wares. “Nora will continue to keep us up to date on her art and will occasionally make personal appearances at the shop and demonstrate her talents,” Wunsch adds.

For her part, Robertson says she is excited for the opportunity to share her art and honored to be able to contribute to the mission of Miriam Switching Post.

Miriam Switching Post, 292 Hanley Industrial Court, Brentwood, 314-646-7737; Miriam School and Learning Center, 1138 N. Warson Road, St. Louis, 314-968-3893, miriamstl.org

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