By KERRY KRISEMAN
Public Relations Manager
25 years ago, two social workers who were also clay artists, decided to create a studio program for people with disabilities. With just three clients, and a $1000.00 grant from the Knights of Columbus and a group of dedicated friends, Creative Clay was founded.
In honor of its long history of creating inclusive experiences and opportunities for artists with disabilities to connect with the community, Creative Clay announces its new tagline, equality through art. The tagline came about after a conversation Creative Clay’s CEO had with Creative Clay teaching artist and illustrator, Alli Arnold, who came up with the phrase.
“When one of Creative Clay’s artists has artwork exhibited in an office, gallery or museum in the community, we have succeeded in creating equality through art. It’s perfect,” CEO Kim Dohrman said. “It’s exactly what we are doing and have been doing all along. The fight for disability rights continues on in 2020, as so many of the civil rights movements still do. One of our most important jobs is to advocate, educate and create opportunities in the community that give our artists a sense of belonging and purpose.”
With the addition of professional teaching artists over the years, Creative Clay is now a multi-disciplinary art center. Music, theater, painting, illustration, graphic design and of course ceramics all happen at Creative Clay. For the 25 Anniversary celebration in August, Creative Clay will debut its own band to open the party.
Creative Clay also has expanded its programs to include an inclusive Art Around the World summer camp for children 6-12, Summer Studio for older teens and young adults, the Artlink employment program, Creative Care arts and wellness outreach program, and its Pinellas County Schools’ partnership Transition program, where students ages 18-22 are mentored and empowered to become working artists who actively create, market and sell their work.
Creative Clay’s artists also volunteer at several places in the community to bring expressive arts experiences to their clients. Currently, Menorah Manor, Sabal Palms, Goodwill and CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) are all partners. Creative Clay’s longest partnership has been with CASA. For the past decade, they have partnered on various projects including MLK Day of Service, a program for families and their children and also providing expressive arts for the survivors of domestic violence at the shelter.
In addition to its outreach partners, Creative Clay enjoys many partnerships with local businesses who’ve committed to investing in and promoting equality through art. These businesses believe in the economic benefits of operating in St. Petersburg, but further support a culture of inclusivity by partnering with Creative Clay.
Creative Clay has its own private label through Black Crow Coffee Roasters, who donate coffee to be sold in Creative Clay’s Good Folk Gallery. The proceeds go directly to its programs. In February of 2019, Black Crow opened its new site just blocks from Creative Clay in the Grand Central District and hired Creative Clay artists to paint an interior mural.
These partnerships provide several benefits. Creative Clay artists see that local businesses believe in what they do when they’re integrated into the process of creating, marketing and selling a product. Artist learn important skills of collaboration, and they become authentic participants in the growing of the local economy.
Creative Clay’s Art in Offices program expands on our dedication to create, support and pursue inclusive opportunities for our artists. Artists’ work has been exhibited through this program at Goodrich Wealth Planning of Raymond James, Modern Business Associates (MBA), EDGE Business Distrct Association, Anderson McQueen, Homeowner Financial, and GoZone WiFi.
Last year, Creative Clay had 36 exhibits and events in venues, including the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg Opera, the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, the Scarfone-Hartley Gallery and Dunedin Fine Art Center. Galleries and exhibit spaces for 2020 include, David Vargas State Farm, Mirella Cimato Gallery, Gilbert Chapel Gallery, NOVA, and Keiser University among others.
“One measure of our growth is the continuing increase in the number of Creative Clay exhibits in the community,” Director of Exhibitions Jody Bikoff said. “In our earlier years, our exhibits primarily took place in our own gallery space. Each year we have expanded our reach into venues throughout our city and region. Inclusion through art brings equality on many levels,” Bikoff said.
Like and follow Creative Clay’s Facebook page; follow on Instagram at @creativeclaystpete or on Twitter at @creativeclay.