A few months ago we interviewed Creative Growth for Everybody, a “fashion for good” brand using one-of-a-kind artworks created by the talented artists of Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California.


We got the wonderful opportunity to interview talented female artist, devoted substitute art teacher and volunteer at Creative Growth Art Center, Kelly Allen

How did you first get involved with Creative Growth Art Center?

I first got involved with Creative Growth after I moved to Oakland from San Francisco. I was walking around the monthly Art Murmur open studios event and my friend, artist Rob Reger brought me into the gallery side of the studio, and I immediately fell in love. Rob had done an artist residency there and recommended that I contact them and get involved. The gallery is beautiful, and the adjacent studio where the artists work is bright, open, and filled with tons of art materials and donated objects of all kinds, intermingled with the works made by the artists. I felt like a little kid in a magical art land. I immediately took some literature and contacted the studio manager to attend their volunteer meeting, and began volunteering, and later began teaching. This was all during my most prolific year of painting, where I thought I had no time to do anything other than paint. But I knew I needed to make time for this. I’m SO happy I did.

"I'm mesmerized by the colors, textures, and forms in the gallery." - Kelly Allen
“I’m mesmerized by the colors, textures, and forms in the gallery.” – Kelly Allen

What has teaching at Creative Growth Art Center taught you?

Teaching at CG has taught me so much about the basic human impulse to create, and has reminded me of how much joy that brings. The freedom with which the CG artists approach their work is fantastic, and has made me look at my own art practice from a different perspective.

It’s also helped me to realize my strong desire to help others. To simply help someone thread a needle, sharpen their color pencils, or help them to realize the ideas they have in their minds satisfies me like nothing else can.

Also, I had never really spent any time hanging out with people with disabilities. It’s been such a rich experience. I have never felt so much love in a room as I do at CG. It flows back and forth. Some need to build up trust, while others have welcomed me from the minute I come over to look at their drawing. They have taught me that the most important thing about being with another person is to connect with them from spirit to spirit. Everyone has their own particular idiosyncrasies, which are so fascinating to discover and understand. Some of them can not speak, others are hard for me to understand verbally, but we connect through our eyes and hands and smiles, and through colors, paper, paint, fabric, needles, and thread. It’s been the best experience of my life.

"Monica is a new CG artist, and is one of my favorite people. Here, she rocks out striped glasses and matching shirt. Even though she is blind, she is very conscious of her outfits, and always wears fabulous earrings. Her favorite color is red, and she has a hilarious sense of humor!" - Kelly Allen
“Monica is a new CG artist, and is one of my favorite people. Here, she rocks out striped glasses and matching shirt. Even though she is blind, she is very conscious of her outfits, and always wears fabulous earrings. Her favorite color is red, and she has a hilarious sense of humor!” – Kelly Allen

What mediums do you teach at CG?

I have taught the drawing and painting class, as well as textiles, where artists do a variety of things involving sewing, embroidery, embellishing clothing, and constructing soft sculpture.

You’re in the process of moving from Oakland to LA, what are you going to miss most about CG?

EVERYTHING! I’m going to miss the artists so very much. There are a good handful of them whom I think about every day, whether it’s something funny they said, or a piece of work they made, or the materials they have been working with, etc. I’m going to miss working with them, listening to them, helping them, and joking around with them. I’m going to miss the other teachers and staff, whom are all so talented and kind and inspiring. I’m going to miss the artwork made by the artists in the beautiful gallery. I’m going to miss the studio itself, filled with art materials of all kinds, and hunting to find the perfect fabric for an artist’s project. It’s going to be a tough goodbye.

Amazing necklace from the CG holiday sale.
Amazing necklace from the CG holiday sale.

Define your personal style.

Haha! Hmm. How would I define my personal style…. I’m drawn to all things colorful, stretchy, and I find the most pleasure in hunting down and rescuing treasures found at flea markets, thrift stores, vintage shops, and handmade items. I jokingly refer to my style as “Audrey Hepburn meets Punky Brewster”. That sounds about right.

How does your style as an artist translate from your studio to your wardrobe?

I think serendipity plays a big role in my work and my wardrobe. Because I approach my art and my clothing without trying to visualize a specific outcome, magical things happen that are much better than anything I could have planned for. Often I achieve what I call “spontaneous matching,” where I’m not even really paying attention to creating a look, I’m just putting on stuff that I like, and then I’m out walking around and realize that my earrings, socks, and even my underwear are all the exact same color! It’s all about the little things in life. ;D

(Untitled (Hive 2), oil, acrylic, and cut paper on canvas)
(Untitled (Hive 2), oil, acrylic, and cut paper on canvas)


What are your wardrobe staples?

My wardrobe staples are definitely tank tops, leggings, colorful scarves and cardigans, skirts, flats, and moccasins. Comfortable shoes are a must. Also, moving to LA will allow me to wear sun hats and dresses, which don’t work so well in the chilly, windy Bay Area.

Any exciting projects coming up, that you can share with us?

My mind is reeling with new experiments that I can’t wait to get started at my new studio in LA. Much unlike last year, which was booked solid with exhibitions, this year is starting out pretty open, which I’m really excited about! I will be working with paint in completely new ways, as well as textiles, drawing, and some jewelry experiments with my friend back east. Can’t wait!!!