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My artist residency at Creative Growth

By River Cortes

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Pottery Studio Facilitator, River Cortes, works with a Creative Growth artist.

In October, I had the opportunity to be a visiting artist at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, CA. Like Gateway, Creative Growth is a vocational program for adult artists with disabilities.

I led a three-day workshop in Creative Growth’s ceramics studio, helping artists to explore various ways of transferring two-dimensional image-making skills to three-dimensional ceramics.

When I arrived at the art center, I was taken by the beautiful open space, and the busy atmosphere of artists working on drawing, painting, ceramics, fabrics, woodworking and more.

I began with a presentation to the entire group, describing the workshop: artists would use underglaze pencils, sgraffito, and cut ceramic slabs to apply two-dimensional imagery to pieces rendered in clay. The staff and artists at Creative Growth saw these techniques exemplified in images of ceramic works by Gateway artists, which were very warmly received. Afterward, ten artists who were interested in using these techniques joined me in the ceramics studio.

The artists were instantly creative and willing to explore. They adhered to the structure of the workshop to varying degrees; I found it best to allow them to approach it however they felt most comfortable. In many ways, I was simply doing what I do at Gateway in a fresh atmosphere.

The Creative Growth artists produced beautiful work, and they reinforced in me that central imperative of arts facilitation: keep the parameters manageably defined, but allow the artists to find their own way within them.

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