Date ArticleType
2/3/2020 Member News

Creative Clay Member Artist Debuts Solo Exhibit

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Creative Clay Member Artist Joseph (JJ) Hitch debuted a collection of his Sharpie art at the State Farm Insurance office of David Vargas. The solo exhibit opened Jan. 16, continues through March 10.

JJ is from Ohio and has been part of the Creative Clay Community Arts Program since 2004. JJ can be found in the studio, at work on his large drawings and paintings, in the gallery studying the newest exhibit, or, at his artist files reviewing his large collection of sharpie marker drawings. He is a prolific, accomplished and self-motivated artist whose work can be found in private collections, local galleries, the Museum of Fine Arts Store, and in our own Good Folk Gallery.

"Supporting the local art is important to me,” said David Vargas. Giving back to St. Petersburg and helping is what my agency values. Creative Clay offers an opportunity to the local community to express themselves through their amazing art. I am setting up this art exhibit to help support the amazing artists of St. Petersburg and Creative Clay."


JJ’s art is big and bold, in bright colors of Sharpie marker or acrylic paint. He begins his process with black line work that emerges into pattern and design incorporating human and animal figures often in a seascape or landscape. He is inspired by his ideas using shape and form and color in a stained-glass style. His medium is Sharpie. His work is powerful and joyful to explore.

JJ explains, “My ideas come from me. I draw a lot and I paint a lot of people. I can draw a head, a tail and all different sea life, dragons and people. I draw a lot of different shapes and I put them together, all different shapes. And lines, horizontal, that look like stained glass.”


Director of Exhibitions Jody Bikoff curated the show, which celebrates Creative Clay’s community partnerships as another valuable vehicle to enhance arts accessibility in St. Petersburg.


"Partnerships in the community through art exhibits provides an opportunity for inclusiveness for the artists of Creative Clay,” Bikoff said. “David Vargas reached out to Creative Clay for an exhibit in his office space. After a tour of our studios and gallery, we selected artwork by Joseph (JJ) Hitch.


Local arts aficionado, supporter and Muse Award recipient Sylvia Rusche introduced Vargas to Creative Clay when she hosted an exhibition of the work of Creative Clay artist Eric B.  


"Sylvia Rusche introduced us to David and encouraged him to embrace hosting art shows in his space,” Bikoff said. “David is community minded and very enthusiastic about doing this. I am proud that we are his first exhibit."


Vargas and JJ also found common interests among a shared love of “Star Wars.”


“Curating this show was fun, particularly to learn that David was a fan of JJ's Star War series drawings,” said Bikoff.  “Partnering with David Vargas State Farm is a wonderful way to celebrate community!"

Creative Clay’s vision is to make the arts accessible to all. Since 1995, Creative Clay has pursued equality through art by helping people with disabilities achieve full and inclusive lives through access to the arts by providing expressive, educational and vocational experiences.

Creative Clay’s core program is its Community Arts Program, which serves 50-60 adult artists with neuro-differences each week. Through the implementation of additional offerings, such as the inclusive Art Around the World Summer Camp, Summer Studio for older teens and young adults, Artlink employment program, Creative Care Arts in Wellness outreach program, and its Pinellas County Schools’ partnership Transition program, individuals of all ages and abilities are mentored, taught and empowered to become working artists who actively create, market and sell their work. The result is that a formerly stigmatized population, through the art it creates and sells, demystifies stereotypes surrounding those with disabilities and creates a culture of acceptance throughout the community.


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