Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Finding Claraty

ae1Local art studio offers space for developmentally disabled to shine

Five years ago, Santa Cruz residents Robin Blake and Andy Pereira were searching for a better way to meet the needs of the developmentally disabled. 

Blake, who is developmentally disabled herself, had always admired her mother’s Capitola craft gallery while growing up, but never had the opportunity to create her own art. While Pereira, who ran an agency that provided services for developmentally disabled clients, including Blake, was looking for a way for them to learn more about their own history.

And so, Pereira decided to open an art studio in a former print shop on Seabright Avenue, along with Blake and eight other clients. Claraty Arts is now a working art studio and collective for 21 developmentally disabled artists.

"It's a fun place," says Blake, whose preferred medium is paint. The artists can sell their work in the gallery and keep 50 percent of the profits.

The studio’s namesake is Nell Claraty, a woman who was born with cerebral palsy in 1918, and was institutionalized from age 9 to 78 at the state-owned facility now known as the Sonoma Developmental Center.

“Sadly, there is nothing exceptional about Nell’s story, except that she got out,” says Pereira, who serves as executive director of Claraty Arts.

After leaving the institution—a rare occurrence at the time—Claraty spent her remaining years in Santa Cruz, living in her own home for the first time in her life. She was known for wearing bright and bold colors and often seen making her way down Pacific Avenue in an electric wheelchair. In 2004, she passed away in Santa Cruz at the age of 85.

Nine Claraty Arts artists recently celebrated her life during a reception at the studio, where they unveiled “Nellie’s Last Act.”  The exhibit, which will remain on display through Oct. 2, allows the public and the participating artists to learn more about the history of the disabled and institutionalization in general, as well as Claraty Arts, a place where artists can hone their craft while learning from instructors and each other.

ae2Claraty Arts unveils its latest exhibit, “Nellie’s Last Act,” a celebration of the life of the studio’s namesake, plus an opportunity to learn about the history of institutionalization and the disabled."We challenge people here,” says Pereira, adding that if an artist creates a lackluster piece of art, it will be critiqued so the artist can try again and feel good about the final result. "We're not going to [falsely] praise you and give you a high five. That's the most dramatic thing [happening] here: to work, to fail, and then bounce back—to take a critique and then, like anyone else, to enjoy succeeding."

Pereira tells the story of a time when a few of the studio’s artists entered an art contest without disclosing their disabled status and two of them received awards. In the next year’s contest, the judges discovered who they were and awarded ribbons to each artist from Claraty Arts who entered—an action Pereira describes as a failure of good intentions, since it left the artists wondering if their art was judged honestly.

How to recognize the developmentally disabled without patronizing them has become a hot topic as they become more integrated into society through a process known as mainstreaming. That assimilation came as a result of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, which passed in 1969, and dramatically decreased the number of developmentally disabled people living in state-owned institutions, as nonprofit regional centers and community facilities made it possible for them to live outside of institutions.

Pereira, who has worked with the developmentally disabled for more than 30 years, has been a longtime advocate of mainstreaming. But, around the time he opened Claraty Arts, he came to the realization that mainstreaming also has a flaw.

"There was an unintended byproduct of mainstreaming, which was that as a disabled person you were encouraged to be seen as 'normal' and downplay or hide your disability," explains Adam LaVoy, Claraty Arts studio manager. "That can be mutually exclusive with the idea of celebrating your disability—learning about it, talking about it, and bonding over your shared experiences with other people with disabilities."

That epiphany motivated Pereira to change his approach, and operate his art studio in a way that would allow the artists to learn about themselves as well as the history of those who came before them.

“Claraty Arts takes its name from Nell,” says Pereira, “to remind us of the example she set, that it is never too late to defy a past that imprisons, and to reject and reconstruct old imposed identities that define any person as unwanted, unneeded, or unknown.” 


The artwork from “Nellie’s Last Act” is currently on display through Oct. 2 at Claraty Arts, 1725 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Visit claratyarts.com for more information.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.