Center for Creative Works Has Their Best Outsider Art Fair Yet

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“I love going to New York City because of the noisy sounds. The city never sleeps,” says Allen Yu, an artist at RHD’s Center for Creative Works (CCW).

Allen was one of 11 artists CCW showcased during their exhibit at this year’s Outsider Art Fair in New York City. CCW is a unique, creative day program with a focus on arts and arts-based skill-building, education, in-house-generated vocational opportunities, and community involvement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Outsider Art Fair is an annual, New York-based event dedicated to a style known as Self-Taught Art or Art Brut – unconventional works created by self-taught and often neurodivergent artists.

This year’s fair was held from March 2–5 at the Metropolitan Pavilion and featured 64 exhibitors from 28 cities in eight countries, including Japan, France, and England. CCW began participating in the fair in 2018. Their sales during the 2023 fair totaled over $33,000, making it their best year yet!

Allen featured many of his works at the fair and sold 12 of his pieces. Allen shared, “I can sell more art there because they love my drawings of food and drink.” He specializes in colorful, detailed drawings, focusing on multiple images of objects, such as sandwiches, crabs, and popsicles.

Allen is a big fan of fellow CCW artist, Paige Donavan, who also attended. Paige shared, “I love New York and being at the Outsider Arts Fair. I talk to a lot of people about what I do, and they buy my work.” Paige sold six of her works — embroideries, paintings, and drawings that contain small lines building into vivid landscapes.

Clyde Henry (who attended the fair as well), J. Douglas Tan, Eric Stewart, Vinetta Miller, Joyce Moseley, Tim Quinn, Carl Trunk, Brandon Spicer-Crawley, and Cindy Gosselin also had their creations prominently displayed gallery-style. Additionally, visitors had the opportunity to search through a collection of unframed works from nine other CCW artists. It is both impressive and inspiring that CCW sold so much art from so many talented people at the fair. Prior to CCW’s first Outsider Art Fair, it was a struggle to get the word out about their artists outside of the studio’s Philadelphia-area location.

“When you’re running a progressive art studio, you’re working with artists, but also a lot of your time is committed to the human service part of what you’re doing,” says CCW director Lori Bartol. But it’s also important to make sure those artists receive the attention they so richly deserve. “This is why the Outsider Art Fair is such an important setting for the type of art we represent,” she says.

Five years later, CCW staff and artists see all the benefits of showcasing their participants’ art at the prestigious, world-renowned festival. For example, works by CCW artists hang in the offices of a New York investment firm. Prominent artists, actors, and other New Yorkers have attended the fair and purchased art from CCW, giving the artists and RHD program exposure not seen before. This year, Allen sold one of his works to actress Edie Falco, who played Carmela in The Sopranos. And CCW’s exhibit received critical acclaim via the prestigious blog Art Spiel, which highlighted them as among the most noteworthy nonprofits to appear at the fair.

Next up for CCW is their first appearance at the New Dealers Art Alliance (NADA) Art Fair, in New York City, where Allen and Cindy’s works will be on display.

Looking ahead to the 2024 Outsider Art Fair, Paige said, “I’m already getting ready for next year’s show. I made a plan: paintings and embroideries. So amazing.”

To learn more about CCW and help them support these and other great artists, visit: