Artist with disability recognized worldwide

Inspired Artist Jenny Unrein doesn't let William's Syndrome stop her from creating art to raise money for cancer research efforts.

Michelle Boltz / Washburn Review

Jenny and Wendi Unrein got their start in 2008 when they were at home watching the Oprah Winfrey Show, which at the time, featured an episode for raising money for cancer research for various charities.

“I want to do this, Mom!” said Jenny Unrein.

That sparked the idea for Jenny LU Designs, and Wendi Unrein started a business plan that took her eight months to complete, with the help of networking. After attending a convention in California, their business took off. They first applied for a grant for $2,000 to get started and they have been going ever since.

Jenny Unrein, 23, loves to draw. She got her start in drawing when she was 6 years old by creating her own greeting cards for friends and family. Someday, she would like to go to college to become a teacher’s assistant. Wendi Unrein is an art teacher for the Washburn Rural district in Topeka and moved here six years ago from Olathe.

Jenny Unrein’s artwork starts out using a Sharpie, and then Wendi Unrein adds color using watercolor, colored pencils or markers. Each creation is her own, and no two look alike. It takes Jenny Unrein an average of an hour to do each drawing, and she takes pride in the work she does.

“A lot of teachers were their first customers and made art for gifts,” said Unrein.

Wendi Unrein applied for a $10,000 grant from the state of Kansas and when accepted, the sky was the limit. Vocational Rehabilitation of Topeka also assisted the Unreins with business startup costs and provided Wendi Unrein with many valuable resources.

“When Jenny is doing her artwork, it’s all her and she doesn’t want anyone to see her work until it’s done,” said Unrein. “She is the heart and soul of this business.”

Jenny has William’s Syndrome, which is a social syndrome that was caused by missing one chromosome strand in her DNA.

“The biggest challenge is to understand Jenny,” said Wendi Unrein.

She’s at a 12-year-old level of learning and very high functioning. Most people with William’s Syndrome don’t have fear of man and are very caring and loving. They also have extremely sensitive hearing and love music. Although Jenny Unrein is tone deaf, she is very passionate about her artwork.

Jenny LU Designs is also known worldwide and has artwork in places like Africa, Europe and Canada. Jenny Unrein was featured in an article in Germany, as well. She currently has her works on display in the NOTO District in both the Ecclective and Serendipity galleries, and they were part of at the First Friday Art Walk in March and February.

They have donated some of their artwork for silent auctions and local charities. They attend art shows, special needs art conferences and conventions whenever possible. Trips can become costly.

“We’re not planning on making any money on this,” said Wendi Unrein. “The more you give, the more you get. The heart and soul of what we do is to donate.”

Some of the things they have available for purchase are greeting cards, posters, prints, calendars, jewelry and more. For more information on Jenny LU Designs, or to make special orders, feel free to contact their website at jennyludesigns.com or [email protected].