Art Center’s Annual Fashion Show for Artists With Disabilities

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Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Creative Growth Art Center: Fashion Show.” © Art21, Inc. 2019.

artnet News, April 4, 2019

Any artist who’s had the opportunity to present his or her work to the public knows the thrill of audience engagement—and thanks to the Creative Growth Art Center, that moment is experienced by hundreds of artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities.

Elias and Florence Katz founded the Oakland-based organization in 1974, taking over a defunct auto-body shop with the mission to engage a wider swath of the community working in all artistic media. Over the past four decades, the center has grown into a thriving nonprofit that supplies artists with materials, studio space, and gallery walls. One of the Creative Growth Art Center’s central focuses is on wearable art, and its annual “Beyond Trend” fashion show has become a beloved staple in the local arts calendar.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Creative Growth Art Center: Fashion Show.” © Art21, Inc. 2019

In the new season of “Extended Play,” Art21 goes behind the scenes of the show, where dozens of artists are preparing to walk the runway adorned in homemade wearable ensembles, some of which have been in the works for two years. The program’s director Tom di Maria says the event allows artists to step into the spotlight to “see and celebrate their creative achievements.”

This isn’t some stuffy, old, white-cube gallery show. Artist William Scott says his Frankenstein mask was inspired by The Munsters TV show (his favorite program as a child).

There are sparkles and streamers, feathers, piñata-style creatures, and masterfully hand-sewn garments that rival the intricacy of anything sold in nearby boutiques—plus, these are one-of-a-kind.

“Even though I have cerebral palsy and also legally blind, I don’t let that stop me,” says Daniel Gardiner, addressing the audience in a bespoke velvet-red skirt. “So any of you that’s in the audience that is listening to this… If I can do art, with all my disabilities, nothing should stop you with God’s help.”

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. Creative Growth’s Ninth Annual “Beyond Trend” Runway Event is on Saturday, April 27 at Oakland Scottish Rite Center in California. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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