Creative Clay artists tea it up

Hooker Tea Company hosts local agency's exhibition.

Since opening the Hooker Tea Company in November 2006, co-owner Kendra Rodriguez had always intended to get back to her roots in special education. Now, an exhibit at the downtown St. Petersburg tea store showcases her recent collaboration with member artists at Creative Clay, a local agency where people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues hone their abilities in the visual arts and acquire life skills.

During April and May, Rodriguez visited Creative Clay's artists each week, schooling them in the flavors and nutritional value of tea through tasting sessions. In turn, the agency's member artists created artworks based on tea: still life paintings of teapots; hand-made paper dyed red and purple with tea; circular mandalas made of textured, dried tea leaves. On Fri., May 23, from 6 to 9 p.m., the artworks go on view during an opening reception at the Hooker Tea Company, located at 300 Beach Drive, Suite 124, St. Petersburg.

"We're not just about arts education, we're about a holistic approach to integrating and including persons with disabilities into the community — so this is a perfect partnership," says Creative Clay executive director Grace-Anne Alfiero. "[Hooker Tea Company] is a place that we often go with member artists at the end of the day ... to grab a cup of tea and relax in their little courtyard area."

Rodriguez also worked with the artists to create Creative Clay Creamsicle, a caffeine-free, orange-and-vanilla blend of South African rooibos tea, sales of which will benefit Creative Clay. All proceeds from sales of exhibit artworks and 10 percent of sales of any tea during the opening reception will benefit Creative Clay. For more information, go to creativeclay.org or hookertea.com.

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