Creative Growth is more than a non-profit, it’s more than a gallery, and undoubtedly more than just an organization working with artists with disabilities. Creative Growth gives opportunities to a marginalized community that they otherwise may never receive, improving their quality of life, and all the while changing the way society views people with disabilities. And it’s not just the moral work that’s being done here that’s impressive, the artwork made in their studio speaks for itself. The work produced at Creative Growth is in the permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has been featured in the Museum of Everything, London, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and that’s just naming a few.
Artist Dan Miller joined Creative Growth almost 20 years ago, where he began cultivating his creative voice. Miller has limited verbal communication and prefers to use drawing to convey his thoughts. “Pull it gently.” Miller repeats as he scrawls black pen over a large piece of paper. He looks at a woman sitting next to him, a one on one instructor, and asks “Right?”. She smiles and nods her head, “Right.” This process continues over the next 30 minutes, Miller repeating different words like “lightbulb” and “fan”, occasionally checking in with the instructor, “Right?” “Right.” As he speaks the words, he draws out the shape of a lightbulb. He writes the word “fan” over and over again, some letters overlapping, until the word is unrecognizable. The result is an image that your mind will work tirelessly to try and decipher. Some letters and symbols are familiar, others blend in with each other. The more the viewer looks, the more there is to see.
Miller is at Creative Growth 5 days a week, creating multiple pieces in a day, sometimes using different types of media, including ceramics and wood sculpture. There’s a presence to Dan when he sits down to create work; his hands start moving the minute he sits down with a pen as though he’s had this plan for a piece in his head for months. It appears so automatic, so fluid and natural, as though these thoughts exist in his mind all the time, and he’s just then getting the chance to turn these thoughts into visual representations.
As told below, Tom di Maria, director of Creative Growth, talks about putting the spotlight on a marginalized community that was pushed to the side lines of the art world, about furthering the careers of the artists he works with, and about what the future holds for Dan Miller.