Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Local Treasure Part 2: Creativity Explored

As a designer I am always on the lookout for ways to stimulate my creativity. It’s not often you find an organization that not only promotes creativity, but helps the community, and Creativity Explored has been doing just that for over 25 years.

"Yellow and Orange Abstract" by artist Taneya Lovelace for the Avalon at Mission Bay project.

Creativity Explored is a non-profit arts organization in San Francisco where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit and sell their art. This is a simple concept with high impact implications. This remarkable organization was founded by Florence and Elias Katz in 1983 (the year I graduated from high school). They saw the potential for a program where individual artists are encouraged to express themselves while providing the community with a new understanding of what art means.

Artist Walter Kresnik makes a larger version of a smaller art piece in the Creativity Explored studio.

My relationship to Creativity Explored goes back many years. Back in the early 90’s I lived in the neighborhood around the corner from the original and present studio space on 16th Street. I used to pass by the building on my way to the BART station and admire the art in the windows as I passed by. This was in the days prior to program having a wonderful gallery space (which officially opened in 2001) so I never took the time to stop in and see the art in any depth, but always admired the spirit in which the pieces were done.

The entrance to the Creativity Explored gallery and studio on 16th Street in San Francisco.

Inside the Creativity Explored studio on 16th Street.
My awareness of Creativity Explored changed considerably in about the year 2000. I was at a friend’s house who was an avid art collector. He had wonderful pieces of (mostly) photography from all the notable galleries in San Francisco. He had an incredible eye for art and I had always admired his vast collection. On one my visits to his place I saw that he had an amazing piece (not photography) hung on the wall in his hallway. It was done in bright orange and cobalt blue and had been painted on the back of a piece of Lucite and depicted two hands. I can remember having a visceral reaction to seeing something so special and distinctive. Of course I had to know where it came from and he said it was from Creativity Explored.
"Chinatown" by artist Kevin Roach.
Artist Evelyn Reyes working in the studio on one of her "Carrots" pieces.

"Red Carrots" by artist Evelyn Reyes.
I was sold, and knew I had to take a closer look at this incredible organization. I attended a couple of openings and loved what I saw, but in 2008 when business slowed I decided to volunteer my time and started helping with the gallery show openings. The shows which happen about every other month are curated by studio staff and usually have a theme which highlights the work of a few artists. I always leave these openings full of delight and inspiration.

Artwork used to promote the "Repetitions" show by artist John Patrick McKenzie, who uses words as his medium.

An image for the upcoming show entitled "Science" Fiction by artist Douglas Sheran.
"Utensils" by artist Steven Geeter used as the image for a food themed show entitled "Tasty".

In 26 years Creativity Explored has managed to propel itself into the twenty first century, while becoming a San Francisco institution. Their web site is an amazing source of information and features profiles on most, if not all of the studio artists and shows multiple examples of their work. The site also fully outlines the many events that Creativity Explored partakes in to promote its program and artists.

Artist Diane Scaccalosi in front of one of her large scale works to be used at the Avalon Mission Bay project.

Here in San Francisco, Creativity Explored has become well known through a series of collaborations. Some of the more notable and recent collaborations are with a local chocolatier, a national retailer and a new luxury rental project.

CB2 chairs transformed by Creativity Exlored artists.

For three years running now, local chocolate legend Michael Recchiuti has featured art by Creativity Explored artists on a series of chocolate tiles, with proceeds assisting the Creativity Explored studio program. This year’s artist was Vincent Jackson, whose graphic images work brilliantly in this capacity.

Recchiuti chocolate tiles for 2009 with the artwork of Creativity Explored artist Vincent Jackson.
A few months back CB2, the off-shoot of national housewares retailer Crate & Barrel, introduced a limited edition (2700 pieces) tote bag adorned with illustrations of San Francisco houses by Creativity Explored studio artist Antonio Benjamin. Some of the studio artists also painted limited edition CB2 chairs as well.

Limited edition canvas tote by CB2 with San Francisco houses artwork by artist Antonio Benjamin.

A notable commission for Creativity Explored artists was proposed by a developer of a group of properties on King Street in the Mission Bay neighborhood, near the new ballpark. The artworks were commissioned for the luxury housing project called “Avalon at Mission Bay ”. The artist’s work, which was primarily larger scale pieces were framed and hung throughout the property.

A lobby at Avalon at Mission Bay showing artwork by Creativity Explored artists. Photograph by David Wakely.

I look forward to my own collaboration with Creativity Explored in the future. Barbara and I have talked about using some of the artists work in some of our projects, and we will certainly let you know when we do. In the meantime, I will continue to support and cheer on this amazing organization. I hope you will take some time to check out their web site, or if you are in town attend one of their openings, and see for yourself a true exploration in creativity.

Creativity Explored is located at 3245 16th Street San Francisco.

David Hansen