Celebrating a Vision: Art and Disability
When Florence Ludins-Katz and Elias Katz moved to Berkeley, California, in 1966, the disability rights movement had already found fertile ground in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mass deinstitutionalization in the 1950s and 1960s coincided with a growing awareness of the challenges confronting disabled persons and an emerging legal framework to guarantee their rights as full citizens. Elias was a staff psychologist serving individuals with developmental disabilities at the Sonoma State Hospital and Florence was an artist who had instructed at both the high school and college levels. After privately hosting an art-making event for a number of artists with disabilities, the Katzes quickly recognized the potential of this interaction, secured a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and in 1972 established Creative Growth in Oakland as the first institution dedicated to supporting artists with disabilities.
In 1982, Creative Growth expanded to a 12,000-square-foot facility with dedicated work areas for drawing and painting, woodworking, printmaking, ceramics, rug making, textiles, and mosaics. Today, Creative Growth, now called Creative Growth Art Center, provides a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation, and a social atmosphere among peers for 150 artists.
With the sustained success of Creative Growth Art Center, the Katzes started another center in 1982 with the hope that it would become the home for a nationwide art and disabilities movement—The National Institute of Art and Disabilities (NIAD), now called Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development Art Center, located in Richmond, California. Today, NIAD serves as many as seventy artists each week, year-round, in a 4,000 square-foot open studio. The Center’s 1,500-square-foot gallery and storefront exhibit more than forty rotating exhibitions and pop-up shops annually.
The Katzes brought their successful model to San Francisco with the establishment of Creativity Explored in 1983. A second studio site opened in 1995 to provide an opportunity for adults with severe disabilities to create visual art. An onsite gallery was added in 2001 and the center’s programming now includes six diverse exhibitions each year with more than 15,000 annual visitors to the gallery and studio.
For more than three decades, Creative Growth Art Center, NIAD Art Center, and Creativity Explored have maintained a steadfast commitment to the Katzes’ vision by providing stimulating and supportive environments that promote creative expression, independence, dignity, and community integration for adults with disabilities. All three centers support increasing numbers of artists whose works are exhibited in galleries and museums across the country and internationally. The success of these organizations has inspired the creation of more than forty similar centers nationwide. Celebrating a Vision, composed of eight artists from each of the three organizations, features artwork ranging from paintings, drawings, and ceramic sculpture to textile art, collage, and assemblage. Together, the artwork demonstrates the extraordinary creativity of its makers and confirms the Katzes’ belief in art as an essential and enriching activity.
Online resource for biographical information on artists