Gateway to the Arts for People with Disabilities

Aloha to you, my wonderful friends!

Please, join me in welcoming a woman who does so much for local artists. I am honored to be given the opportunity to chat with Kerry and talk about Creative Clay in St. Petersburg, FL .

Kerry and her gorgeous smile… what a GREAT selfie!

Kerry is the public relations manager at Creative Clay and has held this position for over 12 years. She has a strong communication background and prior to her pursuing Creative Clay, she served on several non-profit boards. Before making the decision to join the Creative Clay organization, she was familiar with their mission and supported their vision by attending events, making donations, and purchasing heir artist’s work.

To Kerry, Creative Clay is a “big-hearted organization” that’s integrated into the community and “dispels myths about people’s disabilities”.

Let’s dive into a brief history of Creative Clay and what they’re about…

The official Creative Clay logo

This organization participates with adults that have disabilities (e.g. neuro differences, physical disabilities, PTSD, depression) that want to express themselves through art. Creative Clay has been serving individuals with disabilities for 25 years, making a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of the community.

Kerry states, ” When they see our artists in the community and they don’t have someone with a disability in their life, it dispels the myths around people with disabilities”.

Creative Clay was started by two caseworkers in 1995 with a $1,000 grant given by the Knights of Columbus. These two individuals were support coordinators who saw the lack of enrichment or valuable programs for people with disabilities. Creating this organization made creating art accessible, but even now, accessibility is still a major issue.

What is the age range for Creative Clay participants?

The age range starts as young as 22 and has artists over 70. The age starts at 22 because that’s the age in Florida that you officially get ‘aged-out’ of public schools.

The artist’s that participate in this organization are referred to as “member artists”. Most of the member artists can’t afford to participate in this program on their own so they receive financial assistance through the Medicaid waiver program through the state of Florida.

How does a member artist get approved?

The waiver support coordinator will set up an appointment with the individual to find out what services the member artist would like to participate in. (If someone is coming to Creative Clay, they have expressed interest in making art or learning life skills such as communication). They can participate in drawing, painting, ceramics, mixed media, and fiber art. This is an outlet for these member artist’s to express themselves.

What does an average day consist of for a member artist?

Around 8:30 a.m. is when the instructional part of the day begins. This is when the member artists first arrive. It is referred to as Adult Day Training (ADT). The member artists and instructor will discuss a theme, most recently being hand washing and hygiene. Other past themes were poetry and healthy eating. This discussion takes place over an hour’s time. The member artist has the remaining five hours to stay in the studio and work on their projects or go out in a small group (3:1 ratio, student to teacher) with a contract teaching artist for community relationship building.

How has COVID changed how Creative Clay operates?

Prior to COVID, large groups were held on site. Now, there are Zoom classes that host approximately 20 students each session. When the artists are out in the community for events such as ArtWalk (the second Saturday in St. Petersburg), they follow COVID guidelines by wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and social distancing.

Awareness is better but discrimination is still prominent. People are not aware of their abilities, they just focus on their disabilities. These are talented individuals, individuals who have started sketching in pencil on small pieces of paper and now create master pieces on a large scale. Creative Clay is there to help enhance the artist’s work, not doing “hand over hand” teaching.

“The artist’s create what they create”- Kerry

For example, Kerry speaks of two students in particular.

Karen C. focuses on birds. She will find newspapers with pictures of birds for her inspiration.

Karen C. and her lovely works of art from Creative Clay’s Artists page

Sydney loves architecture and creates buildings.

An amazing piece from Sydney’s collection seen on Creative Clay’s Artists page

This is “all from them, not from us” – Kerry

Special member artist spotlight…

Marquise R.

Marquise and a few of his creations showcased on the Creative Clay Artists page

Marquise grew up in St. Petersburg, FL and his artwork is amazing! Please check out his full bio on Creative Clay’s website if you would like to read more about this wonderful man.

Kerry has been a part of this amazing organization for many years. After speaking with her, I can clearly see why. This a place where artists can learn new talents and teach other. As Kerry said to me, “Everyone has something to contribute”.

Please, follow Creative Clay on their social media sites:

If you would like to purchase some of the artist’s work, please visit the Creative Clay gallery here and see what lovely piece of work you would like to take home!

If you would like to support this organization in another way, please visit their Donation page here. They are worth it!

A special heart-felt thank you to Kerry for sharing her story today and for shedding light on a way for individuals with disabilities to create and spread joy to our communities.

Thank you Kerry for sharing this picture of what Creative Clay is all about

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