Most people visiting San Francisco have a list of must-see attractions. And while our family has ticked off driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, wheeling among the towering trees at Muir Woods and many other tourist hot spots, we hadn’t heard of Creativity Explored. On my recent trip to San Francisco I was invited to visit the not-for-profit art center and gallery in the Mission District and I was reminded that some of the best experiences are off the usual tourist trail.
CREATIVITY EXPLORED – ACCESSIBLE ART SAN FRANCISCO
Creativity Explored was founded in 1983 by a psychologist and artist and now supports over 130 artists with developmental disabilities. I visited the studio for one of the weekly Imaginate Saturday sessions, which is a drop-in, family-friendly event. The sign out the front invites people to “Come in & make art with us.”
I was welcomed inside and found myself in awe, and a little intimidated, of the creative space where every surface was laden with fabulous art including paintings, ceramics, sketches and multi-media pieces.
The vibrant atmosphere was further enhanced by the friendly chatter between the artists, facilitators and families attending the session.
Everyone is welcome at Creativity Explored and all levels of ability appear to be catered to. With a variety of materials available it was interesting to watch the individual approach of the artists. Many adult artists sat working independently. A couple of teenagers arrived with their parents who assisted with the art, made suggestions and supported them throughout the session. There was a lovely easy familiarity between the participants and clearly an encouraging atmosphere for all.
While sitting with the artists I noticed various people arriving, not to participate in the art session but to purchase art. I was curious to know more and chatted to several. One lady was an art teacher and she’d brought her friend to see the studio, gallery and the artists at work. Another group included an artist who was currently exhibiting his own work in New York. He’d purchased art previously from Creativity Explored and had brought his sister and mother along after they’d admired the art in his house. They happily left after purchasing several paintings. This was no fluke, in fact Creativity Explored welcomes over 10,000 visitors into their studios and gallery annually.
It’s well known that employment opportunities and the ability to earn an income is a significant barrier to people living with disability so it’s wonderful to see a place which offers both a creative and practical opportunity. And by welcoming everyone into the studio, Creativity Explored is bridging some of the self-esteem and social barriers faced by many. Creativity Explored believes art changes lives and I can certainly see how this is being put into practice. Artists have the opportunity to communicate and celebrate their own abilities while building professional, artistic and social skills to support their well-being.
If, like me, you’re looking to engage with a city and its people or just go to a lesser known attraction, then Creativity Explored is worth considering when you visit San Francisco. Clearly I’m not alone in looking for different experiences because Creativity Explored has been included in numerous guidebooks, such as 111 Places in San Franciso That You Must Not Miss, Lonely Planet San Francisco, and most recently Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.
Even if you don’t fancy unleashing your inner Picasso and joining in, I highly recommend dropping in and supporting artists with disability.
Although stairs are the only visible entrance, staff can organise wheelchair access through another door.
Thanks to Creativity Explored for inviting me and for the lovely welcome I received from artists, facilitators and families.
You can read more about Creativity Explored on their website.
If Creativity Explored has whet your appetite for art, head to Clarion Alley to see local street art on display.
Thanks to one of the Creative Explored families for suggesting I visit Clarion Alley.