Creative Clay’s Friday Art Markets are an opportunity the non-profit’s mission in action and celebrate equality through art. The October Art Market was an extra-special day of art, music, and community as Creative Clay welcomed welcome Mayor Hideto Onishi of Takamatsu, Japan. He and his delegation were in St. Petersburg to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the St. Petersburg-Takamatsu Sister City partnership.
Mayor Onishi and his delegation enjoyed watching performances by our Member Artists, touring Creative Clay’s Good Folk Gallery, and mingling with staffers and artists at the market. Steven Barefield, Director of St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society (SPIFFS) and Kathy Michaels, SPIFFS volunteer, coordinated the visit, which included stops at St. Petersburg City Hall, local schools that have partnerships with Takamatsu, and Creative Clay.
“It was an honor to have Takamatsu Mayor Onishi and his delegation visit Creative Clay,” said Kim Dohrman, Creative Clay CEO.
“He has been Takamatsu’s Mayor since 2007 and has done much in his city over the years in support of its citizens with disabilities, which includes the Heart Art Link program, run by Tomoko Tano since its inception. There are 16 sites participating in the Heart Art Link program, which is incredible.”
Creative Clay and Heart Art Link Takamatsu have enjoyed a friendship for more than 20 years. Creative Clay and Heart Art Link Takamatsu had their first collaborative exhibit in 2003, then named Artlink Japan. The partnership between the two organizations was born when Tomoko Tano saw a presentation about Creative Clay’s Artlink Program at a conference in 2001. Creative Clay representatives then traveled to Takamatsu to teach the Artlink mentorship program.
On and off for the past 20 years, member artists from Creative Clay and the artists of Heart Art Link Takamatsu have enjoyed participating in art exchanges, most recently in 2021 and 2022 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Sister City partnership between St. Petersburg and Takamatsu. The continued relationships and collaboration with Tomoko Tano and Yoko Nogami, a former Creative Clay Teaching Artist and art teacher at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, nurture this ongoing partnership.
Next year brings a new collaboration between Creative Clay and Heart Art Link Takamatsu.
“Recently, Tomoko Tano, Yoko Nogami and I connected to work on our next Artlink Takamatsu-St. Petersburg project, a mail art endeavor pairing 10 member artists from Creative Clay with 10 artists participating in Heart Art Link Takamatsu,” said Dohrman.
“We are also planning to share many virtual projects, including performances and more. We are fortunate to have Yoko san, who has been essential in the interpreting between the two agencies since 2007, to help us to bring this project to fruition. Yoko san, who was a former guest artist at Creative Clay from 2007-2010, worked at the PCCA at Gibbs for many years following. She is currently living in Japan and has recently visited Heart Art Link Takamatsu and discussed the new project with Tano san.”
During Nogami’s time at PCCA, she kept the relationship with Creative Clay going with yearly mail art projects between her senior art students and Creative Clay’s Transition Art Students. This project with Heart Art Link Takamatsu will be similar in nature.
“Yoko san is a fabulous artist and fantastic teacher, and we are very much looking forward to this project,” Dohrman. “And Tano san is such a creative leader and has great ideas—we’re looking forward to getting started!”
Visit www.creativeclay.org to learn more about how Creative Clay provides a safe and inclusive space for people with disabilities to create, market, and sell their work. Follow on Facebook and Instagram @creativeclaystpete for updates!