Michael Bingham is giving a tour of his studio, Jump the Moon, in a curly wig, flannel shirt, and an unusually soft tone of voice. It’s Oct. 30, and although it’s not quite Halloween, Bingham has just returned from teaching a beginner’s painting class at Utah State University dressed as the late, great Bob Ross.
Bingham wasn’t always a fan of Ross’s work. As a blossoming young artist, Bingham didn’t like Ross at all. Now he says he and Ross have the same ultimate goal: to bring people joy.
Bingham opened Jump the Moon at 553 N. Main St. in Logan in December 2017 in the hopes that it would be a place for anyone and everyone to create art, including a focus on adapting to the needs of people with disabilities. The collective is going strong even despite a severe injury the founder experienced this year.
In March, Bingham was painting the vaulted ceiling in his living room. He reached out to paint the last few strokes and fell 20 feet to the floor.
Bingham broke 14 bones and was in the hospital for six weeks, much of which he can’t remember.
“I had to learn how to do a lot of stuff that used to be easy, like walk and swallow,” Bingham said.
Bingham is expected to make a full recovery, although he will likely experience chronic pain for the rest of his life. However, he says he’s grateful for the accident even though it could’ve killed him.
“I had asked literally many times, ‘Please help me understand people with disabilities on a higher level,’” Bingham said. “‘Cause if I understand them better, I’ll be better able to meet their needs and find their strengths and find the things that will make a difference for them. … I’d do it again if I needed to to get the knowledge and experience I got out of it.”
In addition to sculptures, paintings and drawings, the studio also showcases some of Bingham’s inventions, including a modified electric wheelchair which the rider can use to paint.
“You have these kids that have challenges — this place was made for them,” Bingham said. “We want to see a big busload pull up at the front and we will find everyone’s strengths and start working with them … that’s why we’re here.”
Cody Jones, Jump the Moon’s studio manager, said visitors usually have no problem feeling comfortable.
“It’s a really positive environment,” Jones said. “We have fun, play music and do lots of art.”
If a guest needs accommodations the studio doesn’t already provide, Bingham is known to go into his wood shop and whip up some sort of device that will meet their needs.
“We have kind of a unique approach where we make adaptive equipment to fit somebody’s ability level,” Bingham said. “I think every person — every living being on this planet — has something valuable that they can contribute to the whole. There’s way too many people who never discover what that is.”
Bingham’s drive to help others stems, in part, from the struggle he faced in school as someone with learning disabilities.
“I’ve really had an interest in helping people with challenges, partly because I had challenges myself growing up and there wasn’t anybody really helping me,” Bingham said.
LeAnn Dixon brings her sons Davis and Mitchell Dixon to Jump the Moon almost every week. She says that when they first started coming to the studio, Mitchell, who was already interested in art, felt very comfortable right away. Davis however, didn’t feel like he had any artistic ability.
“When he went there he felt like, ‘I don’t think I’m very good at art, and I don’t know what to do,’” LeAnn said. “But they were so friendly and willing to help him.”
Now both Davis and Mitchell love to create art together and get excited to see their work on display at the studio. Art, LeAnn says, has given them a voice.
“The best thing I think you can do for people is to validate them and recognize or be able to spot where their strength is and point it out to them,” Bingham said. “That will stick with them forever, and it may even change their life.”
One of Bingham’s biggest concerns after the accident was Jump the Moon. When he was well enough to return, he was surprised to see that the studio volunteers had kept things almost as he’d left them weeks before.
“They made the place even better without me,” Bingham said. “You want to leave some sort of legacy, something that will last longer than you, and I was hoping that this would be it. To see that even with me out of the picture for quite a while it continued, and it even got better … to me that was really special.”