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.
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.”
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.
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 http://www.creativityexplored.org/.