2017 has been a heavy year. There’s no denying the anxious cloud looming over current social and political climate. The silver lining is that I’ve been challenging myself with ways in which I can do and be better. The task can feel larger than life and at most times, insignificant, but I’ve realized that I can, indeed, make a difference in the smallest, yet most important, of ways: by starting at the local level. In my own community. This is why I couldn’t be more invigorated by method‘s most recent collaboration with Oakland’s Creative Growth, a non-profit arts center for adults with developmental, mental and physical disabilities. The San Francisco based company has paired the work of four artists with four limited edition fragrances. I had the opportunity to visit Creative Growth, for the first time, just a couple of weeks ago and the experience was transformative.
Creative Growth was founded in Berkeley in 1974 and has since relocated to a former auto-repair shop in downtown Oakland. After realizing how few accommodations were offered to patients from recently closed psychiatric hospitals, founder Florence Ludins-Katz and her husband decided to create a center for former state hospital patients with developmental disabilities, primarily Down syndrome and autism. The goal was to allow students to feel a sense of worth and value from their art. Creative Growth’s current workspace is open and light-filled, separated by work areas for painting, woodworking, ceramics, textiles and printmaking. Artists arrive each morning and are assisted by volunteers and teachers, who aren’t there to instruct but to support any specific needs. The moment I stepped foot into the studio, I was instantly overcome by two things: the incredible sense of community and kindness and the immense talent of the artists.
method was clearly also moved by Creative Growth’s powerful message. So much so that they produced a collection of dish soaps, hand soaps and all purpose cleaners, which are exclusively available at Target through the end of the year, inspired by the art of four Creative Growth artists. Allow me to introduce you to three of those four artists who inspired scents like palm garden, jasmine lily, cedar spice and vanilla sky:
Meet Barry Regan. Barry is best known for his repetitive and colorful circular motifs – in fact, he’s been painting circles for as long as he can remember. On paper, outlines of circles are methodically filled in with a polychromatic range of colors. Barry has also explored wood sculptures, working with circular cross sections of wooden dowels. His technique is calm and focused, just like himself. Barry has been creating art at Creative Growth since 2002.
Meet Maureen Clay. Maureen is an abstract painter. Her process involves layering colorful paint over and over again, in graphic shapes and forms, until the paint stands out from the surface. Her thickly brushed impasto technique gives her compositions a textural, three dimensional feel. Maureen has been creating art at Creative Growth since 1991.
Meet Allan Lofberg. Allan is a multi-faceted artist. He sketches, sews, paints, and sculpts. He lets his mood dictate his work – which means, his color palette can range from dark and muted to bright and loud. Allan is quiet but once in a while, you can manage to draw a million dollar smile from him. He has been creating art at Creative Growth since 2001.
I first met Allan during the completion of an Oakland mural that street artist Strider Patton created after leading a workshop with several of the Creative Growth artists. After immersing themselves in the history of murals and street art, the group brainstormed themes and styles by way of sketches and conversations. Strider then took all of the ideas and designed a mural to be placed in downtown Oakland, with the support of method. I visited the mural just as the final touches of paint were being applied. It was amazing to witness that project come to life and I even got in a few paint strokes of my own!
Here are some of the other amazing artists creating magic at Creative Growth . . .
Monica Valentine is completely blind and uses prosthetic eyes. She has a sharp memory and a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor. She’s also obsessed with color and often wears a single hue, from head to toe. She also has an obsession with bike reflectors and often makes her own jewelry and accessories out of recycled reflectors. Monica’s art involves threading thread sequins and beads onto tiny pins (by color, nonetheless!) and entirely covering surfaces of foam shapes to create sparkly, three dimensional shapes.
Larry Randolph is a ceramicist and a social butterfly. He has created an incredible collection of animal sculptures, made from clay and was in the process of glazing a beautiful and detailed gorilla.
Henry Jorgina loves style and was embellishing an outfit for himself for an upcoming fashion show. It was painted with a forest theme, dotted with embroidered leaves. It was amazing.
Dan Miller’s obsession with light bulbs, electrical sockets and food are translated into drawings of repetitive lines, letters and words. Layers and layers of ink are systematically applied. In fact, he’s never without boxes and boxes of ink pens by his side. Dan’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum!
Thank you, method, for allowing me connect with something greater than myself. I was so inspired by the experience that I’ve just submitted my application to volunteer at Creative Growth. I cannot wait to be a part of this remarkable community.