Just a skip and a hop up the I-5 lies Oakland, Calif. Located just outside San Francisco, Oakland is known for its sketchy neighborhoods and school systems with so little support that they tried to claim Ebonics as a separate language to get more funding.

But from within the disenchantment of these underserved populations comes a few shining lights, organizations that stepped out of the morass and filled in where public institutions could not. One such program is the Creative Growth Art Gallery, aimed at assisting children and adults with disabilities and celebrating their artwork.

The artists that Creative Growth works with run the gamut from mildly disabled to people like their current featured artist, Judith Scott, who is so beset by her Down’s Syndrome that she cannot hear, speak or communicate in almost any way. Even so, she manages to produce what we would call art, naturally and organically, creating sculptures based solely on her own personal urges rather than an art textbook.

Artists with Creative Growth work in all the media available to them, including fiber art, rugs and tapestries and paints. Their collections are published in books and sent off to museums all over the world – these people are, without a doubt, legitimate artists, not charity cases. And some of them don’t even know it.

Creative Growth was founded in 1974 as an art program and quickly expanded to include the gallery. Grants and donations led to the gradual addition of programs like the tapestry program and a scholarship program for high school age young men and women who have disabilities.

With its list of awards and successes growing every year, Creative Growth is a model that shows that despite all of the obstacles in one’s way, great beauty can come out of surprising places.

For more information, visit www.creativegrowth.org.