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Published 2011-04-11T21:03:00Z”/>

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Downtown art studio teaches ceramic classes to people with disabilities, some dropped due to budgetTasha Clark

Butte College graduate Sherri Fizer was born with Congenital Glaucoma making her visually impaired, but for 30 years it hasn’t stopped her from doing something she loves – ceramics.

Originally from Berkley, she worked in Oakland for 11 years through Vista Community College helping teach ceramics to people with cerebral palsy, Fizer said. Most people with Cerebral Palsy have difficulty using their hands, so there were different techniques they could do such as using their mouth to draw or painting with a tool wrapped around their heads.

Fizer moved to Chico and attended Butte College receiving her associate’s degree in behavioral and social sciences, she said. While attending Butte, Fizer took sculpture and ceramics classes for educational and enjoyment purposes.

“There is so much joy in creating,” she said.

For the past two and a half years on Tuesdays and Thursdays for five to six hours, Fizer has gone to All Fired Up Ceramic Art Center & Gallery on Broadway Street to design hand-built sculptures with clay, she said.

When Atlas Clayworks, a studio in Chico she used to go to, was shut down, she discovered All Fired Up, Fizer said. Rather than designing at home she is more comfortable working in an art studio.

The center has been working with disabled people for some time, said Janice Hofmann, owner of All Fired Up. Some are a part of the classes she teaches, while others are like Fizer, more self-sufficient.

Her biggest class held 18 high school students with disabilities, she said. Hofmann taught this class for three years, but the class was dropped due to budget cuts. Other classes usually held two to three students.

Recently the Little Red Hen, a company that works with children and adults that have developmental disabilities, has been working once a week on their big project of mosaic tiles that will be displayed to the public, Hofmann said.

After seeing an advertisement last year for a position, ceramics teacher Cory Conbry decided to get involved with All Fired Up art center, he said.

Graduating last May from Chico State with a degree in ceramics, he teaches children ages 9 to 14 a variety of hand-building techniques and teaches a wheel-throwing class, Conbry said.

When designing her sculptures, Fizer does most of her work without assistance, she said. One of the challenges she faces is wheel throwing. This is when an artist put pieces of clay on an electric wheel that spins while the artist forms a shape using their hands.

Family sculptures, flower pots, coil frames, animals and prayer figures are some of the sculptures Fizer likes to make, she said. Some of her items are made for friends or members of the community who wants to buy her designs, she has her own business cards that she gives out to the community.

Fizer thinks anyone can explore their artistic side, disabled or not, she said. There are ways things can be accommodated for disabled people – their disabilities should not stop them from participating in this craft.

“It’s important as it is to anyone else to explore their creativity,” Fizer said.

Graduate art student and 2-D design teacher Chelsea Gilmore also thinks it’s important that everyone have access to art, she said.

People with disabilities incorporate their life into their work, Gilmore said.

“Art should be an expression of personal experiences,” she said.

In the future, All Fired Up plans on hosting an event to get the community involved in hand painting, Hofmann said.

Particularly the center wants to sponsor a fundraiser helping children at the Torres Community Shelter, she said.

Being able to help people with disabilities gives Fizer drive and motivation to continue making art, she said.

“It’s not a hobby,” Fizer said. “It’s part of who I am – I’m an artist.”

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<strong>Tasha Clark can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>

 

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