Executive Director Amy Taub Retires After 18 Years

Posted on May 31, 2017

“Human expression is a basic right”:

Amy Taub, Executive Director of Creativity Explored, retires after 18 years

San Francisco, Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - After 18 years, Amy Taub will retire this summer from her position as Executive Director of Creativity Explored (CE), a San Francisco non-profit that gives artists with developmental disabilities the means to create, exhibit, and sell art.

CE is one of three art centers founded between 1973 and 1983 by artist Florence Ludins-Katz and her husband, Elias Katz, a psychologist. With the energy of the mid-60s Free Speech Movement still circulating throughout the Bay Area, the two pioneered a community-based model for supporting people with developmental disabilities in expressing themselves through visual art. Taub says she continues to be inspired by the Katzes’ leadership and vision. “Human expression is a basic right,” Taub contends. “Our founders believed that all people are creative given the right environment, and their model reflects that deeply-held tenet.”

As many as 130 artists work in CE’s two studios each year, exploring various media and techniques with guidance from a team of professional artists. Taub says art instruction at CE is “based on experimentation and exploration,” adding, “Many artists from the community visit our studio and tell us that they admire the freedom artists here display. CE artists are not inhibited by trying to make their work look like what they’ve been taught good art ought to be, but rather are willing to go where the creative process takes them.”

Berkeley Art Museum Director Larry Rinder echoes Taub’s remarks, saying, “Quite a number of prominent artists have told me that what they really wish they could do is spend their days making art at Creativity Explored . . . They gravitate there to soak in the fantastic atmosphere and to re-encounter the pleasure of risk, the power of focus, and the reassurance of community.”

The work of artists with developmental disabilities continues to earn critical acclaim throughout the global art world and is routinely acquired by individual collectors and prominent museums. The perceived barrier between contemporary art and “outsider art,” a term often used to label art by people with disabilities, is blurring. “Art has intrinsic value,” Taub says, “and that value is truly central for all artists, including, of course, artists with developmental disabilities. That value drives everything we do here.”

Nonetheless, the stigma surrounding disability persists.

Taub recalls one CE artist’s incredulous frustration after a well-received 2004 exhibition, Don’t Call Me Retard. “He said to me, ‘Amy it’s not working.’ He thought that he wouldn’t get called retarded anymore after that show. I told him, ‘I know, so let’s keep working. We’ve got a long way to go!’”

A Supreme Court decision in 1999, Taub’s first year at Creativity Explored, determined that unjustified segregation of individuals with developmental disabilities constitutes discrimination and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a 1990 statute that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. “Since ADA,” Taub explains, “the primary focus of services for people with disabilities has been to enable people with disabilities to live full lives like everyone else.”

“CE has really helped to change public perceptions of people with developmental disabilities,” Taub says, crediting the use of what she calls “non-confrontational advocacy.” She continues, “We’re not shy about talking about disability, but we also believe in the power of CE artists making visible contributions to the conversation that people can admire.”

“Many artists working in our studios do not use speech as their primary form of communication. We understand that and celebrate the diversity of human expression. Art making gives people with disabilities a chance to relate to the public on equal footing.”

In 2011, CE hosted the International Art and Disability Conference where providers from Los Angeles to Sydney came to share best practices. “There are so many more centers now than when I started here,” Taub says. “We have always been transparent. We want to share what we’ve learned so that other centers can benefit from our knowledge.”

Many providers have emulated CE’s culture of radical, joyful inclusivity, which she attributes to “a whole team of really creative people, including the Board of Directors, looking together at how to best engage the artists here and how to teach them. Our long-held egalitarian values have been integral to our growth and success.”

During her tenure, Taub has encouraged innovation, and CE has piloted many new programs. “We try new ideas. We keep doing what works, and we stop doing what doesn’t. Twelve years ago we started going to galleries, museums, and art events regularly. Now, we’ve moved from participating in the Bay Area art scene as audience members to working side by side with artists in the community.”

“We have become a beloved institution in San Francisco. Thousands of people in San Francisco have CE art in their homes, and our patrons are very proud to share where that art comes from.” Taub says that CE’s many supporters have helped artwork by artists with developmental disabilities to become more mainstream.

“I’m proud to have led this organization, to have supported the artists working in our studios as they have gained considerable, deserved recognition. And to work with such a broad community to support and appreciate human expression in all its diversity – I am truly grateful.“ 

Download Press Release PDF
Download Press Images (Web)
Download Press Images (Print)

Press Contacts

Michael Korcek


Fact Sheet

CE Overview
CE Images


Review Media