Creative Growth Art Center: A Fashion Show for Everyone

From their studio space in Oakland, California, the artists of Creative Growth Art Center prepare for the nonprofit organization's annual fashion show, "Beyond Trend." What began as a spontaneous one-off event, "Beyond Trend" is now an annual tradition that features fashions created and modeled by artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities.

Shown at work on their wearable art in the weeks prior to showtime, the Creative Growth artists describe inspiration rooted in both personal experiences and pop culture references. "I used to wear Frankenstein masks when I was seven," recalls artist William Scott while creating a papier-mâché Frankenstein mask, reminiscing about memories of watching The Munsters on television and going treat-or-treating. 

Through the fashion show format, Creative Growth artists are given the opportunity to add an element of performance to their otherwise primarily visual practice. "It really adds this other dimension," reflects Tom di Maria, Creative Growth’s director of external relations. "It becomes this great celebration of artistic creation." As artists and models set to take the stage, di Maria muses, "You'll see it in their performance, how proud they are of their work."

Creative Growth Art Center was founded by Elias and Florence Katz in 1974. Operating in a former car-body shop near downtown Oakland, California, Creative Growth provides studios, gallery space, and supplies to more than 150 artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities, who work in a wide array of media. Predicated on the belief that art is fundamental to human expression and that all people are entitled to its tools of communication, Creative Growth is an incubator of artistic activity that has fostered exemplary artists, such as Dan Miller, Judith Scott, William Scott, and Monica Valentine.

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