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Creative Growth Art Center in "San Francisco Bay Area"

Founded four decades ago, at the height of the disability-rights movement, Creative Growth Art Center is a nonprofit organization serving artists with physical and cognitive disabilities. Telling the story of remarkable individuals—Dan Miller, Judith Scott, William Scott, and Monica Valentine—and a uniquely productive artist community, this segment explores the idea that artmaking is a fundamental human practice and should be accessible to all.

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Creative Growth Art Center

Creative Growth Art Center was founded by Elias and Florence Katz in 1974. Operating in a former car-body shop near downtown Oakland, California, Creative Growth provides studios, gallery space, and supplies to more than 150 artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities, who work in a wide array of media. Predicated on the belief that art is fundamental to human expression and that all people are entitled to its tools of communication, Creative Growth is an incubator of artistic activity that has fostered exemplary artists, such as Dan Miller, Judith Scott, William Scott, and Monica Valentine.

Judith Scott

Isolated as a result of being institutionalized for most of her life due to Down syndrome and deafness, Judith Scott began creating art at age forty-three, after being introduced to Creative Growth in 1987. Scott’s vivid and enigmatic sculptures, which evolved in shape and material throughout her career, expressed her imagination in ways she could not through speech. Her abstract works have been compared to nests and cocoons while her processes alluded to both ritual and play. Described as hermetic and complex, the wrapping suggests protection and concealment.

William Scott

A self-taught artist, William Scott’s paintings often render San Francisco as “Praise Frisco”, an imagined utopia that realizes his idealization of a wholesome place of community. Scott features transformed city landmarks, neighborhood sites, and portraits of African-American celebrities and community members from his church. Scott layers text phrases such as, “Reinvent the past”, “Another life”, and “Wholesome encounters” in his paintings, reiterating the aspirations in his imagined world. Scott’s recurring fantastical narratives and characters address realities of race, class, identity, citizenship, spirituality, and tolerance. Born and raised in San Francisco, Scott has observed the marginalized spaces in the city, including his own neighborhood, change over the years. Through meticulous detailing of a futuristic urban utopia in his drawings and paintings, Scott communicates his desire for an optimistic future.

Monica Valentine

Using pins, colored sequins, beads and shaped foam, Monica Valentine creates sculptures that are both visually rich and tactile. From geometric cubes and spheres to more playful cake shapes, skulls and logs, Valentine’s sculptures draw up the artist’s fascination with color, despite her blindness. Valentine relates to color through her other senses, such as touch, describing her ability to feel the heat of the color red and the cool of the color green. Through this synesthetic relation to color, Valentine speedily pins beads and sequins into the foam body of her sculptures, intuitively grouping similar colors together or positioning contrasting colors in relation to one another. Her work has been described as embodying her cheerfulness and dry sense of humor.

Dan Miller

Working with paper, ink, pencil, and paint, Dan Miller illustrates dense layers of words and letters and objects such as light bulbs and electrical sockets, obsessively repeated into abstraction. These layers are superimposed upon each other and amalgamate, resulting is monochromatic fields of patterned forms and bold strokes. His impressive canvases, sometimes measuring over twelve feet tall, serve as a way for Miller to organize, process, and communicate with the world around him. Rendering visible “the cacophony that is daily life,” Miller’s work “articulate[s] something of the relentless ebb and flow of thoughts, ideas and emotions that are common to us all.” In recent years, he has expanded his use of materials to include wood, textiles, and ceramics.

“Creative Growth is about artistic expression as a form of self-empowerment, as a form of aesthetic development. As a form of saying, this is who I am in the world.”

Tom di Maria, Director of Creative Growth Art Center

A Look Inside "Creative Growth Magazine"

by Tom di Maria

A look inside the pages of “Creative Growth Magazine,” a first-of-its-kind publication presenting the work and lives of artists with disabilities, in the words of the artists themselves.