A leaping, paper-mache cow sits at the front of Jump the Moon’s art studio, a large rocket taped to its back. Artwork adorns the walls, with everything from paper-mache bouquets to paintings to fabric-stitched flowers.

Meanwhile, Michael Bingham, the founder and executive director of the Cache Valley-based nonprofit, makes adaptive painting tools for Kaya Eccles, a 24-year-old artist with muscular dystrophy. While Eccles waits for Bingham to finish building, she works with a volunteer service missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rachel Francis, to draw flower petals on poster paper and cut them out.

“I love art,” Eccles said, looking up with a broad smile, later adding that she’s been drawing and painting for “a long time.”

Bingham drills holes into two paintbrushes, working to attach them to a paint scraper, eventually using duct tape to bind them. Later, Bingham notes how he will attach it to Eccles’ power chair to help her paint with both small and large strokes.

The founder adds that he invents adaptive technology to best help Utah artists with disabilities express themselves creatively, having started the nonprofit art studio to create a space for them to draw, paint and eventually display their art in museums and galleries.

As Bingham drills the paintbrushes into the scraper, he notes the ideas for Jump the Moon started when he was an art teacher at Mountain Crest High School.

“I ended up deciding to be a teacher because school was a difficult thing for me to do,” Bingham said. “The result of my schooling was I just felt like I must be stupid — and anyway, I didn’t want that to happen to anybody else. So, I started teaching to find the students who might need a little extra help or encouragement.”

Michael Bingham, executive director of Jump the Moon, a nonprofit art studio and gallery organization talks with Kaya Eccles as she poses for photos on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Kaya is an artist in Logan who paints with a specially outfitted wheelchair to apply the paint. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

And as he started teaching, Bingham noted he “really enjoyed” helping the disabled students in his class.

“I could see that art would make a huge difference in their lives,” Bingham said.

But Bingham added that having a classroom of 24 students with just a couple of kids in wheelchairs made it difficult to focus his time on helping each individual succeed.

“I started dreaming of a studio where we could just really focus on them, and finding a way for them to have success, and making it so that the ideas develop,” Bingham said. “It’s almost seven years to take it from an idea to actually be in a nonprofit.”

One of Bingham’s students was Eccles — and when he saw her expertise with her power wheelchair, he realized the potential to make adaptive technology to express her creativity.

“I just sat and watched her one day when I was in class, and I just thought to myself, ‘I might be embarrassing her by just by expecting her to do things the way everybody else does things,’” Bingham said, noting that he also thought, “Why aren’t we painting with her chair or drawing with her chair? She can control that completely.”

So, he got to work by making a wooden attachment that could hook to her chair, attaching pencils and markers to it. Bingham then put a large piece of sketch paper at her feet. The small but effective invention allowed Eccles to control her drawing via her power chair.

After he watched the joy on her face while drawing, Bingham said he noticed other students had told him that they wished they could do art in a similar way to Eccles.

“That’s really a goal for me in everybody that we work with is — how can we make it so that everybody looks at that and instead of thinking, ‘Oh, a person can’t use their hands or is blind or whatever it is’; it’s like, ‘Wow, they’re really making art. It’s their art and they’re having a blast. I’m kind of jealous of that,’” Bingham said.

That’s when Bingham decided to take the technology a step further, making it possible for Eccles to paint in her chair. To do that, he said, he would need another power chair, one separate from Eccles’ everyday use.

Michael Bingham, executive director of Jump the Moon, a nonprofit art studio and gallery organization shows a new painting on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, as he talks about the process that Kaya Eccles, an artist in Logan, uses as she paints with a specially outfitted wheel chair to apply the paint. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Chairs like Eccles’ cost tens of thousands of dollars, but that didn’t stop Bingham.

“I built a chair. I took parts of old power chairs, and I built one that had a special attachment on the front,” Bingham said. “We’ve been painting with power chairs for almost six years now. … My hope was people would see this and say, ‘Oh, let’s make power chair painting machines for anybody who wants to be an artist, no matter where in the world.’ I don’t know why nobody else is really doing this — at least, I haven’t found them yet.”

And it’s not just power wheelchairs that Bingham adapts; he’s created other inventions to help artists with disabilities, such as a painting pendulum. The artist puts the paints on the pendulum and a paper underneath it, and “lets Mother Nature be their partner,” Bingham adds, where they would then swing the paints and create a splattering of color.

For the past six years, the founder, volunteers and artists have expanded Jump the Moon, hanging up the disabled Utahns’ creative work and hosting monthly galleries to celebrate it, some art pieces even making it to the Hyrum museum, according to Bingham and Eccles.

“Most nonprofits don’t make it past the first couple of years, and so it’s easier for us now to show potential donors and grants and stuff that we’re here to stay,” Bingham said.

But just four and half years ago, Bingham’s brush with death didn’t make it easy to keep the nonprofit afloat, he said. It did, however, give him greater motivation and compassion to continue giving opportunities for others to make art.

When he fell off a ladder while painting his ceiling, he broke his neck in seven places, fractured his skull and had a brain bleed.

Michael Bingham, executive director of Jump the Moon, a nonprofit art studio and gallery organization in Logan, and Service Missionary Elder Crookston of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, show a large painting by Kaya Eccles, an artist in Logan who uses a wheelchair to apply the paint, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“I’m really grateful to still be here. I kind of learned that my mission in life wasn’t over yet,” Bingham said.

He added that without the volunteers, the nonprofit wouldn’t still be running.

“Luckily, we have enough volunteers and people who recognize the value of what we’re doing. They just stepped up and said, ‘Michael is almost dead. We’re not going to let this place die.’ And I’ll always be really grateful for that,” Bingham said.

For Francis, a volunteer at Jump the Moon, working and helping create art is one of her greatest joys.

“Most of the time, when I come here, I get to help people do work — and that’s the best part,” Francis said. “It’s really fun for me because like I don’t know what better thing I would be doing with my time.”

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The nonprofit doesn’t just help Utah artists with disabilities, according to Bingham’s son, Jace Bingham; volunteers even go to assisted living centers and create art with residents there.

“While we do focus on helping everybody, like people with special needs or special disabilities to create art, it’s also for anybody,” Jace Bingham said. “It’s kind of just to remind people that they are capable of creating beauty and adding to the world in a creative way.”

When he was 5 years old, the nonprofit’s founder noted how he had a dream about a cow jumping over the moon — but how it used a jetpack to do so. Now, decades later, he’s adopted the name “Jump the Moon” for his nonprofit to show that, with the right ideas, anyone can attempt the impossible.

“The jetpack made it possible for the cow to do something impossible,” Bingham said. “And a painting wheelchair or pendulum or spin art machine — all the other stuff that we have — make it possible for somebody to do something that would have probably otherwise been impossible.”

Michael Bingham, executive director of Jump the Moon, a nonprofit art studio and gallery organization in Logan, shows a specially outfitted wheelchair that Kaya Eccles, an artist in Logan, uses as she paints on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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