Tiles and Smiles

Yesterday all of the interns, along with Curator of Visual Resources John Trendler, went to the First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont for a tile-making workshop.First Street Gallery Art Center is a non-profit program of the Tierra del Sol Foundation, which serves adults with developmental disabilities in the San Fernando and San Gabriel/Pomona Valleys. As part of this foundation, the gallery provides art training and exhibition space for more than 50 people who otherwise would not be as able to express themselves creatively, much less be recognized professionally for their work. The artists receive %60 of all profits from their sales; the other %40 goes to operating costs at First Street Gallery.We arrived at First Street around 9:30. We were given a tour of the place by the director, Rebecca Hamm, and then we were guided to tables outfitted with all sorts of clay-working instruments. First Street Gallery’s Getty Intern, Leah, gave each of us a tile, and we set to work on them. The tile workshop was open to anyone in the community, and there were people of all ages drawing and painting on the clay slabs. Each of us made two tiles, at least one of which will be donated to the gallery. All of the donated tiles will be shown this coming fall, and all sales will benefit First Street Gallery Art Center’s programs.By the time I had finished both of my tiles, the regular artists had arrived and were working on their art in the studio space of the gallery. I walked through the room, meeting the artists and enjoying their work. I met Danny, who had drawn a car, over which he had applied a beautiful, thick layer of dark blue paint. LeRoy was cutting out pictures of tropical fish, creating a collage out of the luminous undersea images. Later on, when the other interns had finished their own pieces of clay artwork, we went through the studio again. This time, we met a man constructing a hay bale out of cardboard and strips of yellow paper, and another woman who was drawing an image of parrots from a book. She told us that she chose her images “because of the colors.”Throughout the morning, I was struck by how wonderful this program is. The artists at First Street Gallery Art Center have faced huge challenges, both physical and social, their entire lives. Here they are given the chance to express their unique experiences and to show that, as the First Street brochure states, “human potential for creativity is not limited by physical or intellectual disabilities.” And the artwork they make is incredible.I was sad to realize that I had never heard about First Street Gallery Art Center before yesterday. Such an amazing place should be common knowledge, especially in a place like Claremont where there are so many students looking toward the future, trying to make a difference. I hope that in the future, awareness of the gallery will be raised among the 5C community, beginning a rapport between students and the artists there.First Street Gallery Tile Workshop from Milan Reed on Vimeo.