The facility of the National Institute of Art and Disabilities (NIAD) in Richmond includes an art studio and gallery that serves 50 adult artists of a range of ages and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Spark visits with the artists in the NIAD’s award-winning day program as they find new forms of expression, independence and dignity.
One of the NIAD artists is Mike Starosky, who is fondly known as “Big Mike.” Starosky was diagnosed with schizophrenia and developmental disabilities at 12 years old. Under the guidance of five professional artists, Starosky and his fellow artists learn skills in drawing, painting and printmaking as well as ceramics, textile arts and sculpture.
NIAD teachers demonstrate a variety of approaches and aid the artists in their exploration of different materials and techniques to develop their own individual styles. Weekly classes in independent living skills, including interpersonal social skills, money management, mobility training, self-care and culinary skills, also help the artists to become more self-reliant.
Another important part of the NIAD’s work is its exhibition program. The organization develops and curates up to seven exhibitions a year with art made by its resident artists. Through this program, the artists see their work in a gallery setting, which validates their role as artist and increases their self-esteem. Proceeds from the sales of the art are split with the artist. The NIAD uses its proceeds to fund the exhibition program.
Dr. Elias Katz, a clinical psychologist, and the late Florence Ludins-Katz, an artist and educator, co-founded the NIAD in 1982. The organization has received the Helen Crocker Award from the San Francisco Foundation, the Vineyards Award from the Golden Gate Chapter of the National Association of Fund-Raising Executives, and recognition from the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities and Advocacy Inc. The NIAD was awarded a grant in 1998 from the National Endowment of the Arts to develop a traveling exhibition.