The Claraty Arts Project
The Claraty Arts Project is an arts program, studio and gallery in Santa Cruz. Its purpose is to support and advance the development of a new, positive, collective identity for developmentally disabled adults via arts education, training and production.
The imposition of negative, stereotypical identities on minorities (ethnic, religious, racial, etc.) and other devalued social groups (women, the poor, etc.) within a society is a common and age-old practice. In the latter half of the 20th century, rejection and replacement of these “spoiled identities,” as they are identified by sociologists, became key, foundational aspects of a great many social and political movements. Groups that were stigmatized and oppressed for centuries, began a process of “identity construction”, to establish new, self-defined identities which reflected self-awareness and self-respect, group diversity, humanity and pride.
The primacy of identity construction at Claraty Arts requires new approaches to the teaching and training the program provides to both its clients and staff. Entirely new subject matter on the nature and culture of disability is explored, adapted, presented and, to whatever extent possible, understood as applicable to the lives of developmentally disabled people in modern American culture. Working closely and in partnership with its clientele, Claraty Arts strives to teach and promote new roles and responsibilities that can transform those we have mandated to be perpetual students into teachers and leaders, and those we have labeled passive and permanent consumers into dynamic, creative contributors.
These goals affirm the beliefs that Claraty Arts has in the capabilities of its clientele. We believe we best serve and respect the artists we serve by establishing and maintaining high expectations for their development and growth, both as individuals and as a strong, cohesive, contemporary minority group.
From all of its artists, Claraty Arts expects a level of artistic standards and intention that will confront and challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that buries and conceals their humanity. We feel they can, and will, accept the work ethic, experimentation and failure required for artistic growth and the struggles often inherent to artistic self-expression. We believe they seek recognition for true growth and accomplishment and not the empty, easy praise or reflexive high-fives too often given them for simply “showing up”. And, we are absolutely certain they know the difference.
Claraty Arts expects its artists, as developmentally disabled adults, to coalesce as a social group determined to establish its own identity. To do this they must understand who they are, where they came from, and how they are viewed, as individuals and as a group, in contemporary society. They must accept themselves, embrace and support each other, regardless of the nature, extent or status of their disabilities.
Through their art, the process and the product, this broad and ambitious vision will be realized.