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St. Pete Artist Consortium Goes Retail, Helps Nonprofits

St. Petersburg's Creative Clay artist consortium has opened a retail store featuring wearable and practical items bearing artwork created by its member artists.

Named Artworks, the new store at 1128 Central Ave. features trendy clothing, coffee mugs and other wearable and usable art. According to Executive Director and Creative Clay founder Grace-Anne Alfiero, the hope is the new store will fuel awareness and appreciation for the talents of those with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges.

"We want to brand what we do at Creative Clay on a larger scale," says Alfiero. "There's not many nonprofit agencies doing what we do and we are inventing as we go."

Creative Clay Inc. Cultural Arts Center was established in 1995 to make arts accessible to the community and serve as a creative and employment engine for those with developmental and mental disabilities.

"Right now 76 percent of those with disabilities who want to work are unemployed," says Alfiero. "When you compare that with the general population unemployment rate, that's a pretty big gap. We help those 76 percent learn a skill or trade to prepare them for longer term employment in the community."

The Artworks retail store initiative is an answer to funding challenges faced by Creative Clay, like other nonprofit entities, in recent years.

"About five years ago, I started to see a trend that indicated that we were going to need a new plan to reach our financial goals to serve everyone who wants our services," says Alfiero.

Alfiero hopes that the new store will not only help Creative Clay, but also other nonprofits facing funding challenges. "Now that we have the business model set up, we can help bring in other nonprofits to sell their products and create entrepreneurial income."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Grace-Anne Alfiero, Creative Clay Inc. Cultural Arts Center

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