SFMOMA acquires range of NIAD artworks 

Photo courtesy of NIAD.
Photo courtesy of NIAD.

By Kathy Chouteau

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is pioneering a partnership with Oakland’s Creative Growth Art Center, which not only brings glad tidings to the Richmond-based NIAD Art Center, but also signals the emergence of the art and disability movement in the Bay Area.  

The partnership will see SFMOMA acquire more than 100 artworks from Creative Growth coinciding with its 50th anniversary, and also two of its peer organizations, with 12 works from NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development) and 31 from San Francisco’s Creativity Explored. All three organizations were founded at different times by Florence and Elias Katz and foster the creative work of artists with disabilities. 

Christopher Bedford, the Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA, said the partnership is part of the museum’s vision to present and collect a more diverse range of artists, expanding its understanding of art history and the narratives and artists that have shaped it. “It is one important step of many in the museum’s overdue commitment to prioritize accessibility and artists with disabilities.”

SFMOMA will host an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Creative Growth in spring 2024 featuring the nonprofit’s artists’ selected works. Plans are also underway to include a commission by Creative Growth artist William Scott, as part of SFMOMA’s ongoing Bay Area Walls series.

In time, SFMOMA will feature a range of all the acquired works in museum galleries, bringing the artists and their voices into active artistic and institutional dialogues with other artists in the collection, the museum said.

NIAD artists whose works have been acquired by SFMOMA include Julio del Rio (b. 1988, El Tepehuaje, Michoacan, Mexico); Karen May (b. 1950, Fresno); Marlon Mullen (b. 1963, Richmond); and Arstanda Billy White (b. 1962, Richmond).

Executive Director of NIAD Amanda Eicher expressed NIAD’s delight at playing a part in SFMOMA’s strategy to diversify its collection and widen inclusion within its walls. “Many NIAD artists would echo the sentiment that inclusion in one of the most significant collections of modern art worldwide is incredibly meaningful to their work and its visibility.”

Across the bay in Oakland, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is featuring artists from the same three nonprofits in its Great Hall now through Jan. 21 in its “Into the Brightness: Artists from Creativity Explored, Creative Growth & NIAD” exhibition showing extensive works from the contemporary artists with developmental disabilities. OMCA is located at 1000 Oak St. in Oakland.

SFMOMA is located at 151 Third St. in San Francisco.