Artists with disabilities spotlighted in Chase Center art exhibit

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The art of Oakland artists with disabilities is getting showcased at the Golden State Warriors brand new home, the Chase Center. JPMorgan Chase is committed to finding local artists to highlight at the arena. These local artists are from an Oakland non-profit organization, Creative Growth.

"When the Chase Center project came up, it made sense that JPMorgan was looking for local artists," said Tom di Maria, Director of External Relations at Creative Growth. "The artists are so excited, being in Oakland everyone knows the Warriors and to be apart of their home arena and to be in San Francisco is fantastic."

Located in the heart of Oakland, Creative Growth is the largest and oldest art center for people with disabilities in the world. Creative Growth has changed the path for people with disabilities and provides artists with a powerful way to communicate through art.

The non-profit was founded in 1974 by a psychologist, Elias Katz and his wife, Florence Ludins-Katz, who was an artist.

"In 1974, this is a radical idea. We take it for granted that people with disabilities are a part of our culture and our society," said di Maria. "We use art not only as a form of community integration but also as personal growth. The plan has been clear from the beginning that the artists would be professional, that they would lead, that there would be an exhibit, and a gallery to sell their work."

During the 1970's, many people with disabilities were held in institutions and the Katz family wanted to change the way that people with disabilities were being perceived. The Katz family started Creative Growth on a table full of paint in their garage. Today, the non-profit has grown to serve 162 artists in a large art gallery exhibition and studio in Oakland.

"My art is unique in many different ways. I bring all my emotions into my artwork," said Dinah Shapiro, Artist at Creative Growth. "I love it here because I can do a lot of kind of things. Sometimes I am crocheting and sometimes I'm drawing."

Artists at Creative Growth come to the art studio two to five days a week. Artists engage in a number of visual arts from ceramics, fiber arts, painting, sewing, video production and more.

"We are not a teaching community, we are more of a learning community when together as artists we understand the way to communicate visually," said di Maria. "We encourage the Creative Growth artists to develop their own style. There is no pressure to produce so we allow the person to find their own voice."

Creative Growth has the first and only three artists with disabilities to have their art displayed at Venice Biennale in Italy, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco Modern Museum of Art.

"Some of the artists' work is very much desired and some of the artists have a waiting list for their pieces," said di Maria. "At Creative Growth you hear about the possibilities and people are asked to perform and enhance and they do. Sometimes that is a friendly surprise for their family or caretakers."

JPMorgan is one of the few American corporations who has actively collects local art and has purchased artwork from Creative Growth in the past. Six artists from Creative Growth, Dan Miller, Donald Mitchell, Dinah Shapiro, George Wilson, Joseph Alef, and Lauren Dare, were chosen to have their art showcased in the JPMorgan Club.

"The Chase Center is our long standing commitment to the Bay Area and part of that commitment is really important to us to be showcasing and partnering with local organizations, like Creative Growth," said Christine Leong Connors, Managing Director at JPMorgan. "We like to say that JPMorgan's art collection is really reflective of the times in which we live and our team at JPMorgan travels the world looking for pieces of art and looked locally as well. It was really important for us to build that local angle and we are very grateful and fortunate to have found these six local artist through Creative Growth."

A handful of the Creative Growth Artists and staff members were escorted by JPMorgan to see their art displayed at the new arena.

"I just can't believe that it is here hanging at the Chase Center. I am wondering how people are going to feel about it and how they are going to feel looking at my art work," said Joseph Alef, Artist at Creative Growth. "I am just very blessed and gratified that my art work is hanging. Everybody feels proud of me for what I have done and accomplishments in my artwork."

"I didn't know my art was going there," said Dinah Shapiro, Artist at Creative Growth. "I am overwhelmed. I would go crazy if Stephen Curry sees my art."

To see their art unveiled and hanging at the Chase Center was a special moment for the Creative Growth Artists and staff members.

"We were over the moon that this was going to happen," said Sarah Galender Meyer, Gallery Director at Creative Growth. "I think that it is really important for the artists to see their artwork out in the world. I think that it is a great opportunity for them and the more that they can see how important it is, the better it is for them."

"It is very important for the next generation to see that while some of their communication skills might be different, their opportunities are greater than they have ever been," said di Maria."The artwork is a portal to their life in a way where they are not able to have that verbal dialogue with you and the way that we expect people to engage with us. I like to think that the information is all there it just comes out in a different way."

Since art supplies can be costly, you can donate to Creative Growth here. website.
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