Every first Friday of the month, Creative Clay’s transition students set up an art market in their outdoor courtyard at 1846 1st Ave. S.
Creative Clay CEO Kim Dohrman affectionately calls the space a “glorified parking lot,” but to the eight students in the art program, the First Friday Art Market is something to work for.
“We may not have a huge amount of people, but the people that come to the art market are amazing, and they know that 50 percent of the proceeds are going to the artist,” Dohrman said. “It makes the students interact more and socialize because they see their peers receiving checks.”
The remaining funds from the art go to programming costs, according to Dohrman.
Creative Clay has been around since 2007 and the teaching program is currently funded through a partnership with Pinellas County Schools.
The outdoor First Friday Art Market popped up in the midst of 2020, and the concept quickly stuck.
In the Classroom
“I paint what I feel and I always feel black and white,” said student James Beck as he works on Mother’s Day cards a week before the art market.
Colorful portraits, still life and abstract shapes created with thick lines cover the walls; Nala the therapy dog sleeps under a sculpture of a goat.
“It’s not just about the art really, it’s about the life skills,” said primary Pinellas County Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher Amanda Drewes. “Some of our students are completely non verbal and art is their way of communicating.”
Drewes works alongside her fellow instructor and artist Andrea Jones, who’s been with the center since August of 2020.
“It always amazes me to see how creative they are,” Jones said.
The transition students are all between the ages of 18 and 22, and have some form of intellectual or developmental disability, but that doesn’t stop them from creating five days a week in the classroom.
“This place is different from anything I’ve ever experienced,” Drewes said. “We’re teaching these students to follow their passions and learn life skills, and we just have a great vibe going.”
The market features live music by resident performer Emily Turnag and eats from Baja’s Southern Cooking food truck.
The excitement is not lost on three-year student Corey Broxton, 22, who sometimes performs and dances with Turnag.
“I create new worlds and places to be,” Broxton said.
Learn more at facebook.com/creativeclaystpete.