(gentle music) – I remember my first experience of seeing this amazing production of art that was different than what I had seen and it was such a personal expression by the person making it. They may or may not have had language, they may or may not been
able to communicate with me, but they’re making this work. That’s really a window into their soul. When you ask someone
who’s been disenfranchised their entire life to tell me your story it’s amazing how the door opens. (upbeat violin music) Creative Growth Art Center
is the oldest and largest center for artists with
disabilities in the world. When we were founded, the
idea of disability, then, was so radically different
than what it is now. We didn’t come out of a hospital setting or we didn’t come out of a
vocational training program, we came out of some
artists getting together, in a home in Oakland, putting
paint on a table in the garage and just saying, this is what artists do, and this is how we can
change the social fabric. From those, kind of, humble beginnings, we now serve 162 artists with disabilities in our studio, every week. It’s a very big space. Within that, you’ll find almost
every possible expression of visual art. You’ll see the rug making
area, the wood shop, the ceramic studio, the fashion area, the painting and drawing area and everyone’s working together and everyone can see each other. It’s different than most places and some people don’t believe it. Some people think, like,
you must have doctors and you must have all these other things and how do you deal with
the studio everyday. It’s like, no, you know, art is the common language. And a lot of our folks
don’t verbalize or speak or they speak sign language, but art is the language
that moves us forward. – This is called the
Oil Red Sea Number One. Red is the only color I can see. – [Tom] You look at work of
an artist like Dan Miller, ya know, he’s pretty much non-verbal. His mother tried to encourage him to speak by telling him how to spell
words when he was a boy, every night, and never spoke them until he started to draw them. – A light goes click, click, click. – [Tom] Look at an artist
like Monica Valentine, she takes pins and she takes
sequins and colored beads, and she strings those together on the pin and she puts them into styrofoam forms to form these optically
charged sculptures. When you realize that
Monica has prosthetic eyes and can’t see color or see anything, it moves into this whole other range. We want their own voice,
we want it as pure and personalized as it can be. And 45 years later, it continues to work. How’s that building coming along, Pete? – Slowly.
– It’s looking good. The record of success
that Creative Growth has is phenomenal, it’s off the charts in terms of what an art school or any other, sort of, enterprise would consider to be acceptable. We have three artists with work
in the Museum of Modern Art permanent collection in New York, in the San Francisco Museum
of Modern Art collection. And, this year, we have
the first two people with developmental disabilities, they have work in the Venice Bienalle. The Venice Bienalle is the
most important, prestigious, by invitation-only
exhibition in the world. Their work is sought after. Ya know, a piece is done,
and there’s a waiting list. Rosina, I haven’t even said
hello to you, yet, today. How are you?
– Good. – To be able to work at a place like this is beyond anything I had hoped for. I get to work with
phenomenally talented people, and to see how they
negotiate the day everyday, how they get around obstacles,
how they continue to say yes, when everyone is telling them no, that’s an amazing thing. That’s a life lesson I get
reminded of every single day. (gentle music)