Entering the brightly lit gallery, the surrounding art pops out and draws you in. The small art gallery is home to a large array of inspiring artwork. Some pieces are bright and attractive while others are heavily detailed with the utmost care. With a quick glance to the left of the galley, the artists are at the peak of their crafts in a large, open area. This is where all the magic happens.
Since its inception in 1974, the Creative Growth Art Center has been serving adult artists in the Bay Area who have developmental, physical and mental disabilities. This sacred space provides a professional studio environment for artistic expression and creative growth.
The artwork is displayed directly in the Creative Growth gallery, as well as in museums and private collections throughout the world. The work expands as far as Paris, where there is a large selection of Creative Growth artwork on display in France’s 10th arrondissement.
On any given day, you can see the artists in their creative zones — whether it’s sewing a free-flowing gown or sculpting a vase.
Artist Jorge Gomez
has enjoyed spending the last 15 years at Creative Growth. Gomez has created a myriad of art pieces ranging from extravagant paintings to fine sculptures.
“I like my work here,” Gomez said. “I like this space. The teachers are nice and they help you a lot, and if you have a problem you can always talk to somebody before you go kaboom!”
Visiting professor Michael Hall, who teaches painting, has been involved with Creative Growth for 11 years. He was a member at the YMCA up the street and one day the space caught his attention. A friend later encouraged him to work there, and he’s been hooked ever since.
Hall believes that Creative Growth is a great establishment for the Oakland community.
“Creative Growth is a good model for more than just the population that they deal with,” Hall said.
After volunteering for so many years, Hall now teaches the video-making workshop he originally brought to the center.
In this class, students make a wide variety of videos ranging from biographical to fictional/science fiction to comical videos.
recently transitioned into bigger projects like informational cue videos shown at the New Parkway Theatre in Oakland reminding viewers to shut off their cellphones.
“Even within that small parameter, each artist makes a video about turning off your cellphone in a completely different way,” Hall said.
Artist Larry Randolf was eager to share his story about leaving and eventually returning back to his home at Creative Growth. Randolf enjoys making food-like sculptures, some of which include a group of uniquely decorated clay donuts.
Not long after leaving, Randolf developed physical problems that forced him
to leave his job at the Oakland Museum, at which time Randolf found it fitting to come back to Creative Growth where he was accepted and could do what he enjoyed—creating art.
Any visitor to the center will immediately notice the kind, caring and nurturing characteristics the artists embody. Not only is this space a place for adults with developmental disabilities to strive artistically, but it is also a great model for many other art facilities that nurture different aspects of social life. As such, Creative Growth acts as a catalyst for other art centers like itself, including Creativity Explored in San Francisco and NIAD Art Center of Richmond.
Creative Growth Art Center is a great place for the Mills community to get involved, whether you consider yourself artistic or not. It is a place for creative and personal growth and a groundbreaking facility within Oakland.
The Creative Growth Art Center is located at 355 24th Street in Oakland, CA. They are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more photos of the Creative Growth Art Center and their artists, check out our Flickr album: