September 22, 2020 | By Cindy Stovall
Celebrating 25 years of
Visionary Arts Education and Inclusion
September 25 at 7 pm
In 1995, I think it’s fair to say that St. Petersburg was just beginning to realize its manifest destiny as a premier arts community. Two amazing museums, professional and community theater, a few galleries and promising initiatives, yes – but the totality of our cultural identity was still on the cusp of being fully realized.
As the rest of the world is fast discovering, St. Pete continues to grow and evolve culturally and aesthetically – which is what any healthy society does. Healthy societies should also strive to provide or facilitate wide-ranging opportunities to ALL citizens seeking to learn, to create, to live without limits – despite any challenge.
Now, I’m not trying to quantify our community’s level of “wokeness” in the ‘90s, but I feel fairly comfortable with the assessment that Creative Clay, an arts learning center and gallery for adults with developmental disabilities, exhibited a prophetic sense of mission on two levels when they opened their doors in 1995.
In a quarter century of learning and creating by member artists, innovative programming and community collaborations, Creative Clay has become one of the most beloved and supported organizations in the Tampa Bay area – and beyond.
Executive director since 2011, Kim Dohrman is proud of all that Creative Clay’s member artists have achieved through the years. Here are some thoughts she wants to share.
“Creative Clay is excited to celebrate 25 years of equality through art in St. Petersburg, a city that loves and supports all of its artists. The artists of Creative Clay are celebrated and active participants in the St. Petersburg arts scene and for that we are grateful and proud.
“Creative Clay artists have exhibited their work at the Museum of Fine Arts, The Studio@620, Florida CraftArt, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, the Salvador Dalí Museum, and many galleries and offices throughout the community. Our artists not only receive acclaim for their work but are also compensated. Recent commissions have included the Raymond James Marketing Department, Local Top Chef, the Grand Central District Association and First Night St. Pete.
“Creative Clay has also recently been delighted to be a part of some great projects. Our artists helped to write a video play called Wordy and are currently creating images for an upcoming virtual play called Rampant!. Another wonderful collaboration has been with Sheila Cowley and her awesome team of artists, actors, musicians and dancers. Creative Clay member artists created the set design and performed in Sheila’s play, Airlift and created illustrations for her book, Splish Splash.” [Disclaimer: Sheila Cowley serves as the Managing Editor of the Arts Coast Journal.]
Before thinking about how to celebrate 25 years, Creative Clay, like so many of us, had to close the doors and think about innovative programming to sustain member artists as well as the bottom line. What they’ve done is yet another example of the overall resilience of our beautiful ‘Burg and how creativity – and love – can be applied to brilliantly approach any obstacle, even a global pandemic.
Shane Hoffman, development coordinator, says, “Of course our sponsors and supporters have been incredibly supportive. But we definitely had some ground to make up. We started by developing classes and showings on Zoom. Our online offerings have been second to none.
“I think the main theme for us during Covid has been collaboration,” Hoffman explains. “For instance, member artists of Creative Clay partnered with the DTSP Hilton team during their renovations to colorfully paint hard hats. It was something they could do at home.”
The completed hard hats, now masterpieces, are currently available to view or purchase in the lobby of the Tru by Hilton hotel in St. Pete’s Grand Central District.
“The collaboration on Splish Splash, with Sheila Cowley,” says Hoffman, “happened because the book was based on a children’s-theater-by-telephone series [through The Studio@620]. It was so popular and the perfect activity for families and theater lovers staying safe at home. Our member artists were then invited to create illustrations inspired by the story and characters to be used in the book.
“We’re so grateful to our community for all of the love and support.”
So, the challenge now becomes how to fittingly celebrate Creative Clay’s extraordinary quarter century milestone in the time of Corona. As you might expect, that challenge has been lovingly met by the Creative Clay staff, a dedicated board and even more community partners like USF St. Petersburg.
Their efforts culminate in an online celebration on September 25 from 7-8:30 pm and will be broadcast via Facebook Live. Board members will act as emcees, there will be videos of members past and present, music by great local bands and an online silent auction.
The online auction is already open to the public. You can participate here. Winners will be announced at the September 25 celebration.
“There will also be a sneak peek of our newest project – an exciting collaboration with USF St. Petersburg’s graphic design department,” explains Hoffman. USF educator David Watts and nine of his students are working with 25 Creative Clay artists to create a beautiful hardcover 8”x10” coffeetable book featuring iconic artwork by member artists. Release date TBD. “Hopefully by Fall,” says Hoffman.”
Find out more about Creative Clay’s
programs at creativeclay.org