Archives for category: Cool Things

This is design, in a way; this is health, in a way, and in all ways this is a postworthy organization. Last Thursday here at SmithGroup, Ann Kappes of the visual arts center Creativity Explored came to give a presentation on “Leveraging Socially-Responsible Local Art.” But before she got into that, she showed a series of photographs of the artwork coming out of the Creativity Explored studio. Abstract explosions of shapes, playfully painted cupcakes and bright swaths of color burst onto the projector screen, and I liked what I was seeing. It was only after Ann had showed us these images and shared a little about the artists who had created them that she mentioned that each of the studio’s artists is developmentally disabled. 

"Cupcakes" by Camille Holvoet

I had walked into the SGU Presentation knowing nothing about Creativity Explored, and so I was surprised to discover that the art I was admiring was created by adults with disorders ranging from severe autism to Down’s syndrome to cerebral palsy. 125 artists overall work at the CE studio. They range in age from 22 to 80, speak a total of 7 languages, are white, African-American, Asian and Latino. Some come in to the studio once a week, some every day, but each would identify with the declaration “I am an artist and I work at Creativity Explored.”

"Frida & Diego" by Kelly Clark

The artists’ creativity and talent combined with encouragement and training in all mediums from the center’s approximately 60 volunteers combine to produce stunning artwork. Various publications have described this work as “sophisticated, amusing, inspired, beautiful;” “joyful, chaotic;” and “fearlessly vulnerable.” What’s more, much of the artwork is sold: to individuals, corporations, curators and more. Half of the proceeds goes to the artists, a cut similar to that of any other art gallery, and these earnings have changed the entire financial situations of some of the more successful artists. One in particular, John Patrick McKenzie, who is autistic, has received international recognition for his text-based artwork, which is sold for thousands of dollars and displayed in solo and international exhibitions. 

"French" by John Patrick McKenzie

His success story is one of many. To see the artwork and learn the artists’ stories in person, visit the CE Studio and see the artists in action five days a week, 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, or stroll through the gallery to view finished artwork on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM; Thursday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM; or Saturday 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The main CE studio and gallery is located at 3245 16th Street (at Guerrero Street), San Francisco. Check out CE online at

"Orange Abstract" by Anne Connolly


This is recycling at its best: Containers to Clinics (C2C), a nonprofit that provides primary healthcare to underserved women and children, retrofits portable shipping containers into mini-health clinics – complete with equipment, medicines, and medical staff. In one 8-by-20-foot metal box, C2C designers fit a small consultation room, small laboratory, office for staff, and storage and inventory space. Wow. From these mini-clinics (minics?), local medical professionals provide vaccinations, treatment for infectious diseases, safe pregnancy and delivery, and health education to those who otherwise have little or no access to them.

I’m all about the women’s health issues (not just because women make up half the population but because their health is inextricably, intimately linked to the health of the other half…women’s health is EVERYONE’s health, period.). Of 8 Millennium Development Goals, 3 are dedicated to women or children. MDG3: promote gender equality and empower women; MDG4: to reduce child mortality; MDG5: to improve maternal health. Now old shipping containers are helping do all three – not to mention MDG6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and MDG7 (ensure environmental sustainability).

They remind me of something slightly more frivolous but also ingenious: those dumpster swimming pools in New York City. Dani Simons, coordinator of the dumpster-to-pool project, describes the project as “taking something we’re used to seeing in one particular way and really inventing them and using them in this totally creative and new way.” Shipping containers, dumpsters – what else could we reinvent?