July 22 – September 6, 2023
Roll Up Project is pleased to present works by Creativity Explored’s Mail Art Club. Creativity Explored is a nonprofit art space in San Francisco for artists with disabilities, and currently serves 130 artists in two locations. Creativity Explored artists in the Mail Art Club include Ada Chow, J.D. Green, James Nielsen, Joseph Omolayole, Yukari Sakura, Adrianna Simeon, Amani Swalim, and Miyuki Tsurukawa.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Creativity Explored had to quickly shift from in-person programs to at-home activities. Teaching Artist Michael Napper distributed blank handmade notebooks to some of the artists, encouraging them to send the notebook back when it was filled. He was dazzled with the results, and with fellow teaching artist Judith LaRosa, created a virtual class focusing on mail art, where artists, staff, and volunteers could share the mail art drawings and collages they received via mail. Some artists mailed completed artworks, while others collaborated, sending the work back and forth to add new elements. Unpredictable, surprising, and joyful works emerged from the many months of at-home studio time. Mail art is continually enhanced with the addition of new layers, as well as stamps and postal machine printouts that recount the work’s journey through the postal system.
The Mail Art Club’s project follows a long lineage of artists sending small-scale work via post. Dada and Fluxus artists in the 1950s and ‘60s popularized the practice, and others such as Ray Johnson, Carlo Pittore, and Buster Cleveland continued the tradition in the 1970s. Other artists have joined more recently, especially during the pandemic, and created community projects similar that connect people and celebrate their talents.
The art in the windows on Harrison Street and Third Street represent only a small portion of the hundreds of pieces of mail art that Creativity Explored artists created from 2020 to 2022. Michael Napper and Creativity Explored board member Cheryl Ward selected artworks that illustrate the breadth and depth of the project. Works range from colorful abstractions to personal thoughts or stories to collages that mix everyday items with specialty papers and other little treasures. By collaborating with a mix of artists, staff, and volunteers, the project highlights the spirit of creativity, along with human connection, and the delight of receiving something special in the mail.
The Mail Art Club is a collaborative effort, and Napper and Ward are grateful for the support and work contributed by: Judith LaRosa (retired CE Teaching Artist), Hannah Grace Lilly (retired from CE and corresponding from Michigan), CE board member Pia Zaragoza, CE volunteer Sylvie Carnot, CE Development Director Megan Hover, CE Program & Development Associate Zoe Chotzen-Tsuruda, and CE Teaching Artist Laura Figa, Melanie Schmidt (corresponding from Germany), and the San Francisco Correspondence Co-Op members Patti Wren, Jennie Hinchcliff, and Charles Kremenak, who have been intermittently involved and continue to be loyal supporters.
About Creativity Explored
Creativity Explored was founded in San Francisco in 1983 by Florence and Elias Katz, an artist and a psychologist. Sparked by the nationwide deinstitutionalization of disabled people, the duo launched a movement that expanded defined notions of artistry when they founded three Bay Area organizations – Creativity Explored, Creative Growth, and NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development). The three organizations honor the Katzs’ legacy in the Bay Area by continuing to collaborate, co-curate exhibitions, and share resources. Together their programs serve as a model for the field of art and disability worldwide. Creativity Creativity Explored now serves 130 artists and has facilitated the careers of hundreds of disabled artists. Creativity Explored artists have seen their work exhibited in museums, galleries, and art fairs in over 14 countries and have earned over $2 million from their art.
Learn more about Creativity Explored at https://www.creativityexplored.org
About the Curators
Michael Napper is a painter and photographer. He has worked at Creativity Explored as a Teaching Artist since 2017, and was previously a guest artist teaching visual journal workshops. Michael has given art lectures and demonstrations at private and public schools, and nonprofit art organizations throughout the southern California area. He also has taught creative writing courses at Venice Arts. He has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2012.
Cheryl Ward is a board member at Creativity Explored. She has lived in San Francisco for over 40 years, and works as an Executive Assistant as ABC Studios. She creates assemblage sculptures from found and collected objects.