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Lion Dance continues celebration of St. Pete-Takamatsu Sister City partnership

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Creative Clay will continue the collaboration with Heart Artlink in Takamatsu and the 60th anniversary of the St. Petersburg-Takamatsu Sister City Partnership on Jan. 22 with a Lion Dance at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.

     Under the direction of choreographers Helen Hansen French Paula Kramer, Creative Clay Member Artists will perform the Lion Dance at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, located on the approach of the St. Petersburg Pier.

     The dance is commonly performed during a new year to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits. Artists from Heart Artlink and Creative Clay painted pieces of fabric that became the final costume for a lion dance. They also sent a large lion head using the Japanese construction method called hariko, a technique of paper construction with a hollow center that Creative Clay member artist Ali V. painted.

      The Lion Dance will be performed March 9 in Takamatsu. Both performances will include the painted pelicans, lanterns, and fans that were part of an arts exchange between Creative Clay and Heart Artlink in Takamatsu.

     Creative Clay’s relationship with Takamatsu began in 2001 when Creative Clay traveled to Japan to teach the Artlink program mentorship and job training program to Japanese arts instructors and artists.

     Last fall, the 30 pelican paintings were exhibited at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.

     “This partnership produced a mutual understanding and friendship between Creative Clay and Heart Artlink in Takamatsu,” said Creative Clay CEO Kim Dohrman. “We look forward to welcoming the public on Jan. 22. St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society (SPIFFS) has been a great partner, paying for the professional dancers to lead the Creative Clay artists in their version of the Lion Dance.”

     As the lead choreographer for the Lion Dance performance, French brings a vast and diverse resume of experience and accomplishments.

     French said she views being a dance artist as an opportunity use her physical body to explore her emotional internal landscape and connect with others through shared experiences. French enjoys collaborating with others on projects that involve multiple art forms. She cites the desire to create community by creating art as a driving force behind her passion.

     “I am honored and thrilled to collaborate with the artists at Creative Clay to bring the Lion Dance to life and continue creating community while celebrating the Takamatsu-St. Petersburg Sister City 60 Year Anniversary,” said French

     French received her B.F.A from The Juilliard School, and her M.F.A from Hollins University. She is a founding member of the St. Petersburg Dance Alliance, serves on the board of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, and co-produces Beacon: a performance series for St. Pete which takes place annually at The Palladium Theater St. Petersburg, where she is an Artist in Residence. In 2021 she was selected to be the Artist Laureate for Creative Pinellas. 

     For the Creative Clay member artists, collaborating with the Heart Artlink artists of Takamatsu and local artists like French is another component to representing St. Petersburg, known as a city of the arts. Sister City relationships foster positivity and increase understanding of another’s culture, which is reflective of Creative Clay’s mission of inclusivity and accessibility. The opportunity to collaborate and collaborate with professional choreographers highlights Creative Clay’s vision of inclusion and collaboration.


     The idea for this partnership was born in 2001, when Creative Clay representatives traveled to Japan to teach the Artlink mentorship program. Creative Clay raised money to bring Artlink Japan to St. Petersburg. The first Artlink Japan exhibit was at the Florida Craftsman Gallery in 2003.

     Twice, Creative Clay representatives traveled to Takamatsu, where they participated in team meetings and discussions. Creative Clay implemented that ideology of inclusion and desire to recognize and consider all voices around the table into its management and teaching practices.

     In 2010, Heart Artlink began ArtLink activities in Takamatsu, at the internationally acclaimed festival, Setouchi International Art Festival. In 2013, Creative Clay hosted another Artlink Japan exhibit, featuring a rabbit balloon sent from Japan. Creative Clay member artists added calligraphy to the balloon before returning it to Japan.

     In 2016, “Takamatsu ArtLink Project 2016” was part of 2016 Setouchi International Art Festival. Japan continued the Artlink program, which has operated through 2021. They’ve trained arts professionals in other parts of Japan and around the world in the practice of implementing the Artlink artist-mentor program.


     Creative Clay’s vision is to make the arts accessible to all. Its mission is to help 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.

     Creative Clay’s Virtual Gallery also includes the artwork of Creative Clay’s member artists. All artwork is for sale through our online gallery at

     Learn more about Creative Clay, its vision of equality through art, and its programs at Like Creative Clay on Facebook, follow on Instagram @creativeclaystpete; follow on Twitter @creativeclay and on LinkedIn.

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