Residents offered creative outlets   

Local artist brings life to the walls of Emerge   

XENIA — A renowned local artist has been working to bring life to the walls at Emerge Recovery & Trade Initiative — starting with the men’s recovery housing space — while giving residents there a creative outlet as they work to turn their lives around and overcome addictions.  

Mike Elsass has a long history of giving back to area nonprofits. Working with his team, the artist has helped Emerge with the donation of original artwork now on display in the men’s space. He is also working with residents at Emerge to offer them creative outlets, teaching them his unique style of painting. Some of the work will go up for auction at Emerge’s signature fundraising event in Dayton in October.  

“Mike is creating a synergy among the art community to give back as he has done for decades,” said Elaine Bonner, director of philanthropy at Emerge. “He wants to contribute to a meaningful cause and bring art experiences into the lives of the people we serve at Emerge.”   

Elsass and his team will also be working with several well-known artists in Greene County to continue the partnership with Emerge.  

The relationship started last year when Mike donated artwork to Emerge’s inaugural fundraising event, Embrace the Journey.  

“Elaine asked if I would help,” he said. “So I donated art to support their event last October. She approached me this year about bringing my art into the 10,000 square foot men’s housing area with massive blank walls. I’m excited about the mission here and I am taking the lead to invite other artists to join us.”  

In phase two, Elsass and his team installed additional larger scale art pieces and work further with clients. Elsass came to Emerge on Wednesday (Aug. 9) and created additional artwork with about a dozen clients and Emerge staff members. He plans return to Emerge later this fall to continue working with residents and clinicians to provide a healthy outlet as part of their holistic treatment plan.  

“We’ll probably have a nature theme as Emerge is nestled among 45 acres,” he said. “We should end up with 200 pieces of art to sell that will fund additional programming. We are also working with Greene County artists.”  

Elsass said his message to the community is to let them know that Emerge is a cause worth supporting.   

“A lot of the charities I work with are here and gone,” Elsass said. “Emerge isn’t going away.”  

During the painting session at Emerge on Wednesday, nearly a dozen residents participated.  

“We use crushed walnut shells, tar and water,” Elsass told residents. “We are going to be painting everything that doesn’t move today. It is going to be innovative. Mark them, sign them, put a word on them. They may go out into the world. They may sell. You can put them in your room or give them as gifts. We are using all acrylic base so it will wash off eventually. We have a lot of supplies that have been donated. I’ve been an artist 23 years. I painted on steel that comes from the scrap yards, rusted steel.”  

Elsass told residents he will be back at Emerge soon to do more work.  

“The purpose of today was to have fun,” said Elaine Bonner, director of philanthropy at Emerge. “It’s a creative outlet – having fun. It is freeing it is to do something out of the lines, unlike a coloring book or painting. This is also therapeutic for the clients. Their artwork may go up as art at Emerge or go into our fundraising event. They are coming back. We will have a second session.”  


About Mike Elsass  

Using rusted, weathered steel and texture and layers of paint, Mike Elsass shares his artistic vision with the world as a creative process focused more on experience than outcome. Using various sizes and shapes, he captures a balance between rusted metal and nature-inspired palettes.   

Elsass describes himself as a reformed businessman. In 2000, he closed a chapter in life in order to follow his dream of becoming a writer. Along the way, he bought a painting from Dayton Artist Roger Sayre that would inspire a very different artistic journey.  Elsass started working in Sayre’s studio, earning an apprenticeship and developing a deep friendship that motivated him to find his own path through contemporary art. Today, Elsass is fascinated by the medium of weathered steel. Inspired to constantly experiment with this medium, his artistic vision yields contemporary abstracts inspired by his vision of nature and time, perfection and imperfection, joy and suffering and other aspects of the human condition, which he mixes with the beauty of nature.   

For more on Mike Elsass and his artwork, go to   

To follow the progress of Emerge, contact Elaine Bonner at 937.974.6120 or