Director’s Note


noun \i-ˈfe-mər-ə, -ˈfem-rə\

: things that are important or useful for only a short time: items that were not meant to have lasting value.

By definition, ephemera is not meant to have lasting value.  But ephemera can document a moment in time, a radical notion or a significant event whose relevance can leave an indelible mark on history.

Recollection marks the latest in a series of presentations related to our 40th anniversary.  The items in this exhibit may refresh your memories, while providing new context and insight into the impact of Creative Growth’s work.  Notably, we are all reminded of how far our artists have come since a simple but radical notion from our founders put us on a journey that continues here today.

We invite you to sit in a re-creation of the living room of Florence and Elias Katz.  This is where it all started, in their Berkeley home more than 40 years ago. When the groundbreaking Lanterman Act of the California Legislature threw open the doors of the institutions and hospitals for thousands of adults with developmental disabilities, a group of artists responded to the question of “Now what?” with a belief in the power of creativity.

With that belief, our founders and the artists that supported their vision, crafted a work plan for creative growth that would eventually take root in countries worldwide, and would help transform a once maligned community into one of cultural relevance and personal actualization.

Looking at the early studio photographs on display in Recollection, one is immediately struck by the institutional smocks that the artists wore.  Despite the radical nature of this experiment, we began with one foot still inside the hospitals and institutions where our people had come from, and we are reminded of what their lives were like before Creative Growth.

Our story next unfolds with a move from the Katzes home to 2505 Broadway, a nearby storefront now home to God’s Gym.  In 1980, a fire in that location led Creative Growth on a search for a new location.  The early photos of our current home still show remnants of automobiles and car parts that once filled a body shop now filled with artists.  From the 1980 fire, and our purchase of this space, photographs also show our temporary home on E. 14th Street in Oakland. Some of the faces in those photographs are familiar; they include artists like William Tyler, Dan Hamilton and Larry Randolph who are still creating in our studio today.

While our program grew, our building did not change. Outmoded and not accessible, the Creative Growth Board of Directors set a course to both improve our facility and to have our artists become full citizens in the art world.  In 2005, a successful fundraising campaign and facility renovation, as presented here in the drawings from Fougeron Architecture, created a more functional and enjoyable space for our visitors and artists.

Outside the building, similar changes were also taking form.  In 2003, Creative Growth ‘s acceptance into New York’s Outsider Art Fair as its first non-profit arts organization began our path to worldwide exhibitions, presentations at leading contemporary art fairs and galleries, and acceptance of our artists into outstanding museum and private collections.

The goal of having our artists move from the margins to the mainstream continues to take form.  While the Katzes vision took a long view of what our work could mean, there is some degree of certainty that our artists have exceeded those early notions of what success might look like.  The dream of inclusion has now become surpassed by the reality of our artists as a significant cultural force in today’s art arena.

None of these changes would be possible without the dedication of our staff, the talent of our artists and the generosity of our board members, collectors and donors.  I would like to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for your part in helping us advance into our 41st year as a vital, engaged and healthy organization.

I hope you’ll be here to see what our 50th anniversary brings.  With the Creative Growth artists as our leaders, I feel strongly that we will surpass your highest expectations.

With all my thanks and best wishes,

Tom di Maria