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Creative Clay is providing virtual workshops for art students

The neuro-diverse students are able to keep creating, which is important for their health.

Perhaps you saw Creative Clay’s vans adorned with colorful artwork driving around St. Petersburg, in the Before Time. Driven by teaching artists, they would take the member artists around to various art galleries and museums, one aspect of the 25-year-old organization’s core Community Arts Program.

That can’t happen anymore. And neither can the studio time with teaching artists that helped more than 40 adult artists with neuro-differences create, market and sell their work.

When the shutdowns happened and the studio had to close, executive director Kim Dohrman started thinking about how to keep the member artists connected and engaged. She said their identities as artists are crucial to their well-being, and some were confused about why they weren’t going to Creative Clay.

The obvious solution was to move to an online model, specifically Zoom. But Dohrman knew that getting art supplies to the students who could participate and the teaching artists would be expensive, so she started a fundraising effort for art kits.

Board members Hal Freedman and Willi Rudowsky stepped up with a donation immediately. It was matched by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. And then an anonymous donor gave $15,000.

“I feel so supported by the community, I can’t begin to express my gratitude,” Dohrman said.

“The arts are an integral part of our culture now and we don’t want to come out with a reduced landscape,” said Community Foundation CEO Marlene Spalten. “We need to support artists who are our neighbors.”

Now, art kits have been distributed and the artists are creating in the Creative Clay Connects classes held on Zoom. Dohrman said she’d never seen such big smiles.

A screen shot of the Creative Clay Connects class taught on Zoom. [Courtesy of Kim Dohrman]

There were tentative plans to reopen the facility, but while Dohrman was contacting artists’ families, she learned that many of the artists have secondary health issues. If they contracted COVID-19, they’d have to be hospitalized, away from their families.

“It could be a long time for many of the artists to return,” she said. “This is a great solution as we transition back.”

She said they’ll keep fundraising to produce more art kits. The artists are also busy working on a commission to make 170 portraits for the marketing department at Raymond James.

Their artwork is available for sale on Creative Clay’s website, where you can also order face masks adorned with their designs.

A screen shot of the Creative Clay Connects class taught on Zoom. [Courtesy of Kim Dohrman]

Donations can me made at creativeclay.org and through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay at cftampabay.org.

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