If you haven’t had the opportunity and privilege of visiting the wonderful Art Explorers studio yet, you owe it to yourself to be inspired and experience the true joy of human creativity. This outstanding organization is truly one of the gems of Fort Bragg.
Art Explorers invites our community and visitors to celebrate this month’s First Friday Art Walk with them, at the Opening Reception for their 21st Annual May Art Show, May 6th, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. This Art Show includes new work from all twenty-one of the current Art Explorer artists on display. Some of the work is offered for sale, which helps to fund Art Explorers’ excellent program. Their studio is located at 305 E. Redwood Avenue, in downtown Fort Bragg. The office phone number is 707- 961-6156, or you can contact them by email. You can also RSVP for the May 6th First Friday Art Explorers Opening Reception at their Facebook event page.
For our readers who are not familiar with “First Friday” events, Fort Bragg, and all of the communities on California’s North Coast, are home to many notable artists and craftspeople, who are constantly creating new works in diverse media. Fort Bragg is also a destination for art enthusiasts, with lovely and interesting local art galleries, studios, and shops. The monthly First Friday Art Walk is the perfect chance to preview impressive works of art, while enjoying hors d’oeuvres. Maps or flyers about the downtown First Friday Art Walk are usually available at each location.
Art Explorers’ Mission Statement is profound and direct:
“Our mission is to provide a fun, nurturing, non-judgmental, and artistically stimulating environment for creativity to thrive. Here people with disabilities are welcomed and accepted as artists, by artists.”
Co-founders Kristin Otwell and Joan Burleigh met on the North Coast at a women’s art group. Joan had a background in social work and teaching and was working at the Harrison Street house group home as a supervisor for adults with developmental disabilities in Fort Bragg.
Kristin had recently relocated to the area from the East Bay, where she had worked as a teacher of severely disabled young children, and also had been a volunteer at the Creative Growth Studio in Oakland — the first program of its kind in California for artists with developmental disabilities. When Joan and Kristin shared their backgrounds, Joan got excited and proposed they join forces to create an art program for her clients at the group home for one afternoon a week.
“We started as volunteers in 1992, painting on the dining room table with the six residents of the home,” says Kristin. “Soon friends asked if they could join as well.
“We believe that art has the power to transform lives, and opens a window to the deepest expressions and yearnings of the human spirit. Our philosophy is rooted in total respect for the individual and the core belief that all people, regardless of ability, have a unique artistic voice.”
Rosanna Wilson-Farrow has more recently joined their staff, and Joan Burleigh has retired from the staff, but is still on their Board.
You can read more about the history of Art Explorers, how they found their initial funding, and how they were able to eventually settle into their current studio space. Art Explorers, Inc. is now a nonprofit creative arts program, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. They accept donations, plus in-kind contributions of art materials. In addition to their on-site sales, they also sell a line of products online to help fund their program. The artists receive 50% of the profits on sales of their own artwork. They are very proud of their work and love to share it with the public.
If you are unable to visit Art Explorers on Friday, here are the regular hours when their studio is open to the public:
Tuesdays, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Thursdays, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Fridays, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Saturdays, noon – 3:00 pm (No Saturday program in April, August, or December).
You can find Art Explorers, Inc. in the Directory Listings on our web site.
We hope you’ll be able to join us for the First Friday Art Walk on May 6th, and that you’ll stop by the Art Explorers studio! It will be a joyful, inspiring experience you’ll always remember.
By the way, this is one of a new series of blog posts we’ll be publishing intermittently, featuring the stories of interesting companies, nonprofit organizations, and people who live in Fort Bragg, California. Are you, or is your organization, one of them?
If you would like to be featured, please contact us and let us know what you’re up to! If you or your organization has a short video clip (preferably five minutes long or less) that would help us tell your story to our readers, and a few good photos we can use, we’ll be glad to feature you in an upcoming post.
Fort Bragg-based businesses and organizations may want to consider being included in our Listings Directory as well, if you’re not there already. You must be based within the Fort Bragg city limits to be included, or hold benefit events for organizations within Fort Bragg. Please contact us if you need further information.