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Creative Growth Art Center x Poketo … New Wallets!

We are honored to launch a new wallet collaboration between Creative Growth & Poketo. Creative Growth Art Center serves adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation and a social atmosphere among peers.

The Creative Growth x Poketo series includes artists Dwight Mackintosh, Merritt Wallace, and John Hiltunen. All of the wallets are available at Creative Growth Gallery in Oakland and will soon be available online. I sat down with Creative Growth’s Projects Manager, Jennifer Strate O’Neal and asked her a few questions to get to know more about the history and awesome things that happen at the Creative Growth Art Center. Jennifer handles all of the special projects coming through Creative Growth including this one!

Tell us about the history of Creative Growth, your mission, and philosophy.

Creative Growth was started in 1974 by Elias and Florence Katz, a therapist and an art teacher who had incredible foresight, and trust in the notion that every person, regardless of any challenge, has the right to a creative voice and to tell their story. Today, our mission is the same, and we have expanded the mission, in the last twenty years, to support the artists as their work becomes exhibition quality and requires gallery management and representation.

What does a normal day look like there?

The studio program runs from 9:30am to 3:30pm and the artists work in rotation in a variety of media: Painting and Drawing, Printmaking, Textiles, Rug workshop, Ceramics, Wood and Video. Artists travel to the Center independently and others arrive on Paratransit buses. There is time for social interaction, discussion, and ultimately an incredible amount of focused art making.

Creative Growth fosters the growth of people who have become prolific and well established artists. Tell us a bit about the exhibitions you have at the art center in Oakland and what Creative Growth is doing globally.

Within the Creative Growth gallery we have seven annual exhibitions—themes emerge pretty naturally from the work that is being made in the Studio here–mostly from things the gallery staff are inspired by. Outside the Creative Growth gallery we participate in 20-30 exhibitions annually–from collaborations with White Columns gallery in New York, to art fairs like the Outsider Art Fair, NY and NADA, Miami to exhibitions in and around Paris, via a small space we have there to show work to European collectors. Creative Growth artist Judith Scott’s sculpture is included in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Dan Miller has drawings in the collection at MoMA, New York. Many artists working here are thriving within the mainstream contemporary art world–they have been making work five days a week, some for over twenty years–they are very good at what they do.

Dwight Mackintosh x Creative Growth x Poketo
Poketo wallet by Dwight Mackintosh

We are so excited to be working with Creative Growth on this collaboration. Is having art be utilitarian and part of the everyday something your artists love to do?

Art as an everyday function goes without saying at Creative Growth–this is what the artists here do, its their job, that they travel to each day–it turns the notion of art as a privilege upside down–Creative Growth is art doing something very important, more important than I have personally ever witnessed. The utilitarian part is certainly inherent in our history–painted chairs, handmade clothing, these items have been made here for years. We love working with Poketo and being able to create an item that makes people so happy to buy, and allows additional income to come into the artists and Creative Growth with out the pressure of having to create original artwork.

John Hiltunen x Creative Growth x Poketo
Poketo wallet by John Hiltunen

merrit wallace x Creative Growth x Poketo
Poketo wallet by Merritt Wallace

How does the Visting Artists” program work? It sounds really interesting for all types of working artists that want to be involved with Creative Growth. What do you hope to achieve with this program?

We receive submissions from outside artists for four-day workshops, which are held in our Studio. We are interested in introducing new media and new ways of thinking to the artists at Creative Growth, as well as expanding the social atmosphere here to include contemporary artists and their world–a world in which many of the artists at Creative Growth have achieved much success. Often the work resulting from the workshop will be featured in an exhibition in our Oakland gallery.

Lastly, any future events or big plans you want to share coming up?

We are currently in the midst of our annual Holiday Show, runs through the end of December and is PERFECT for finding an original gift for your friends and family. Check our website for more info and for upcoming events and art fairs:

Creative Growth x Poketo

More info at
Stay tuned for interviews with the artists!

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