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San Clemente Journal

A Story of Grace

Jun 21, 2021 11:48AM ● By Don Kindred

The workroom where Grace creates her fabulous works of art.

by Mary Colarik

Grace Reber is a young woman who loves to dance and sing and create art. Her distinctive art patterns have been reproduced in the form of 13 card collections with four different pieces in each set and 21 original and imaginative art canvases. The canvases were recently offered for sale to the highest bidders during a two-day online art auction coinciding with Reber’s 21st birthday celebration April 11. Twenty-one percent of the proceeds from the art auction sales will benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County.


What’s significant about the number 21?  Reber was born with an extra 21st chromosome, which by definition causes a cognitive disorder known as Down syndrome, thus the 21 paintings and 21% donation to DSA/OC.

Reber is the youngest child and only girl born to Bonnie and Greg Reber. She has three older brothers, Grant, Bryant and Cale who live in Oklahoma, the family originally hails from Oklahoma City. When her father’s job, transferred him to Southern California, the family decided to settle in lovely San Clemente.

The day I met Grace and her mom, she was busy in her beautiful and tidy upstairs office space, listening to music and watching a movie while creating her “work.” She loves to listen to pop tunes; Taylor Swift is a favorite and soundtracks from musicals like, High School Musical and Mama Mia while she works. She also has a movie playing at the same time-although as I was observing her work set up it seemed very calming and not distracting as she worked on her painting. 

Her work consists of patiently brushing or drawing brightly colored spots and designs on paper. This endeavor originally began as a therapeutic approach for Reber to relieve anxiety and promote focus while doing a favorite activity-painting and drawing. As a young girl she enjoyed watercolor painting in coloring books-always requesting markers, paints and more coloring books for Christmas and her birthday. As she grew, she began doing WORK - a repetitive colorful pattern which evolved into work becoming designs painted on canvasses and notecards. 
Today, her card collection has three notecard offerings with the work design, including, work water work and water work mini. The 10 other cheerful notecard sets feature delightful colors all with special monikers that are selected by her dad, mom, Grace and Ana Netto (the family’s PR person/personal assistant to GracePlaceArt). These card sets depict Grace’s imagination and reflect who she is with a focus on joy and kindness. 

GracePlaceArt, as the small business is named, was created to provide an opportunity for Grace to share her story and offer awareness, kindness and inclusion to others. The mission of the business is: “a project aimed towards turning Grace’s artwork into an opportunity for empowerment. Each GracePlaceArt purchase allows Grace to practice basic life skills while also spreading awareness and supporting the community at large. Through sharing her, story, Grace hopes to inspire others and promote a culture of kindness and inclusion
for all.”

Reber was initially inspired by her grandma, Ann Caudle, who she calls, “Ma.” Caudle has spent years creating handmade personal notecards that she regularly sends out to family and friends – in fact, she sends out hundreds of her specialty notecards every year.  Reber would exude a true expression of joy when she received one of Ma’s cards in the mail.  

Before Reber designed her own cards she was mailing greeting cards-sending a bit of heartfelt joy into the world. So, since this family tradition of writing and sending cards was already well established why not have Reber’s first endeavor featuring her artwork be reproduced into notecard sets?  Thus, GracePlaceArt website was created and now provides an opportunity for Reber to share her story, offering awareness, kindness and inclusion for many and demonstrating to others that she has so much to offer despite her disability.

Last year as the worldwide pandemic was closing down schools and businesses and students were ordered to stay at home and adjusted to doing their lessons remotely, Reber was in an Adult Transition Program. Meanwhile, her parents were in the throes of figuring out how she would transition to adulthood. They were looking for something that would provide an opportunity to empower their daughter-remote learning was not much of an option for a young person with Reber’s special needs. In retrospect, they found the “silver lining” as the situation allowed more time to teach Reber how to hone basic life skills. 

First, they had a family ZOOM session where each family chose a piece of Grace’s art. Next, while the Covid lockdown continued into the foreseeable future, the family started cutting up “WORK” and making card sets which they then sent to over 90 people. The notecards were so well received that they decided to start up a small business at home.

Not only is Reber busy designing the notecards sets. She is also involved with most of the process from creating to shipping out packages. The printing and packaging room is right down the hall from her bedroom and office. It was originally her mom’s office, which has now been converted into an orderly, pretty beehive of activity where the printing, packaging and labeling of the cards takes place with utmost efficiency. 

Grace is hands on, reading out the orders as they come in from ShipStation. Next she finds the correct card collection, matches it to the form, making sure she’s pulled the exact card set, fills up the shipping box, places a thank you note and a sticker in each box and then helps her mom and Netto tape up the box for USPS to pick up. And … as an added bonus, each card is hand signed by Grace!

Reber is one busy young woman; she has behavior therapy seven hours per week to help develop her skills, she also works on physical fitness and health with Annie Morency six hours per week.  She was a guest speaker for an Adult Transition Program ZOOM class explaining her business with the goal to inspire others to pursue their dreams. She also is working with a High School program in Switzerland to build a company similar to GPA. Reber has donated her art pieces to several organizations for their fundraisers, including Heart of Joy International, Our City Beautiful, and GiGi’s Playhouse.

Packed Party, an online party store based in Austin, TX in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 2021), honored Reber as their very first Joymaker in their JoyMakers program by commissioning a special sticker with Reber’s artwork. The sticker is currently included in every Packed Party order. It’s a reminder to be joyful and spread joy.

Family, friends, former classmates, neighbors and people who work with GPA were all in attendance for the 21st birthday celebration the last two hours of the Virtual Art Auction weekend (April 10-11) with a party in the cul-de-sac in front of their home. Even though the family has all been vaccinated, Covid precautions were in effect, masks for the guests were provided by local company, Artiwistic. Personal hand sanitizers were available for all, additionally food and snacks were individually wrapped, and Grace’s cake was kept under cover.  So, although it was not a big bash, it was a festive gathering with tunes provided by DJ Noah who got the small crowd dancing to “Celebration.” Additionally, several local companies were on hand contributing to the party’s success. The delicious cake pops came from Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, a pottery making necklace table was set by Fired Up San Clemente and the Kona Ice Truck offered icy treats to the partygoers.

All in all, it was a great weekend to celebrate 21!  The final art sale tally is not complete yet, however, the sale did generate over $500 (21%) that will be donated to DSA/OC. Kudos to this joyful young woman who is pursuing her dreams and new projects.