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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Arts, Culture and Skills with The Creative Center

Dec 22, 2017 11:00AM ● By Kerri Regan

True Value

January 2018
Story by Kerri Regan
Photos courtesy of The Creative Center

Students at The Creative Center in Visalia don’t just light up the stage – they light up an entire community.

This non-profit community arts center teaches visual arts, performing arts and life skills to adults with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to foster self-expression, self-worth and personal growth through the arts, while providing cultural resources to the community and recognizing each person’s value and contribution. 

“We’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this year, and what our students love is performing out in the community,” says Celeste Chavez, who has been a program manager with the center for two years. “They bring all their heart, their soul and their talent – it’s real down-to-earth talent. They’re playing instruments out in the community, singing, dancing – they’re full of energy and full of life, and they share that with every single person they come in contact with.”

Founded in 1977 by the late Violet Ginsburg, the center has evolved from one woman’s vision into a robust, busy center that serves up to 100 clients daily. It stands on land that was a Union army outpost in 1862 – a deserted building that a less optimistic eye may have labeled for demolition. The Visalia City Council voted to lease the building to The Creative Center for $1 a year, and classes began in 1978. Its programs are funded by the Central Valley Regional Center, Inc. and Visalia Unified Adult School.

The arts are an integral piece of a healthy society, and countless individuals, businesses and civic organizations have contributed to the cause over the past 40 years. In 1996, The Creative Center Foundation was established to raise funds for the center’s capital needs, and its long-term goal is to grow an endowment fund. The Legacy Art League was also established to help provide for planned estate giving to the foundation.

The Creative Center’s visual arts department offers studio instruction and exhibition opportunities at public venues, including the Jon Ginsburg Gallery at the center. The performing arts department incorporates music, dance, drama, set design, costume design, theater and film production. Public performances showcase these newfound technical skills, stage presence and talents throughout the year.  

The life skills program helps develop independence and everyday living skills, including computer training, health and fitness, math, reading and gardening. Adaptive equipment ensures that clients with physical challenges can take full advantage of the facilities, including a computer lab and video editing room.

Staff motivate, challenge and encourage each participant to strive toward the individual goals and objectives that they set together, with collaboration from the participant’s family, group homes and counselors from the Central Valley Regional Center. “We get together quarterly and annually to go over goals,” Chavez explains. “We figure out what they’re passionate about, what they want to achieve, and we help them achieve it.” 

And the community is “100 percent supportive,” Chavez says. “We have people who don’t know anyone that attends The Creative Center, and they come to the shows because they just want to support us. They help, they donate their time, they donate costumes, props, makeup. This job is so fun – it doesn’t even feel like work.”

The Creative Center • 606 N. Bridge St., Visalia

(559) 733-9329 •

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