By KERRY KRISEMAN

Public Relations Manager

An artist’s voice, the words dispensed through writing, acting, poetry or commentary, is a medium that is sometimes overlooked when one considers what constitutes art.

Creative Clay’s Artlink mentorship program pairs artists from the community with its member artists to collaborate for six months to create a body of work that will be exhibited in September at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Whether hung on walls or performed on a stage, art is experienced using all five senses.

Artlink team Michael J. and Rick Crandall are working together at Crandall’s radio station 96.7-Music Tampa Bay, where Mikey (as he’s known to friends and colleagues) is learning the art of broadcasting. In addition to producing live, on-air music, Crandall is teaching Mikey the business of music programming and creating public service announcements.

“I… am elated with the progress I’m seeing with Mikey’s grasp of the basic requirements for performing a live radio show, and the technical and vocal abilities he is demonstrating,” said Crandall.

The 96.7-FM community agrees, and have offered glowing endorsements of Mikey’s on-air abilities and his broadcasting personality.

“I’m also hearing positive comments from others about his on-air work, notably the clarity in his pronunciation of voice announcements, a quality I consider to be essential for developing professional broadcast skills,” said Crandall.

The life of an artist is often a lifelong pursuit in perfecting one’s craft, identifying a niche and meeting the challenges of succeeding in a competitive field of equally talented professionals also hoping for a chance to be seen and heard. The partnership of Mikey and Rick is complimentary of each other’s personalities, where each learns from the other. The reciprocal nature of the Artlink program is the catalyst that creates success for each participant. As much as Mikey is learning the business of broadcasting, honing his skills and gaining confidence, Crandall is learning that a disability is not indicative of limitations and that a focus on abilities creates positive outcomes for everyone.

“Mikey demonstrates a superior capacity for following the sometimes highly detailed directions I give him for precise digital audio editing, and a generally positive attitude for creating the ingredients necessary for presenting a live on-air radio program with wide public appeal,” said Crandall. “I believe he has real potential for pursuing a career path in broadcast radio.”

For Mikey, the feeling is mutual. Mikey’s mother Debby couldn’t be more pleased for this opportunity afforded her son, an artist who is also a musician and stage actor.

“This opportunity is encouraging growth for Michael in so many areas, including communication skills, responsibility, self-confidence,” Debby said. “It adds a new dimension and lots of excitement to his life.”

Mikey agrees. “I love the music, the artists and the chance to work with Rick,” he said.

Artlink is funded through a grant from National Endowment for the Arts and is one of Creative Clay’s seven programs that create arts accessibility for individuals with neuro-differences. In the true spirit of teamwork exists collaboration, the sharing of ideas, experimentation, and a mastering of artistic skills. Artist mentors also share the important skills of the business of art, how to create and sustain successful careers as working artists.

“Although Artlink was designed as a program to benefit artists with disabilities, I am always impressed by how much the professional artists get out of it,” said Marcy Miller, Creative Clay Director of Artlink Vocational Services.

“Inevitably, they will tell me that working with their partners was more personally meaningful than they anticipated–even transformative–and they overwhelming recommend the program to other professional artists.”

Rick Crandall operates 96.7-FM from his studio just west of downtown St. Petersburg. The station operates a low-power, non-profit station licensed to support local artists and the Tampa Bay music community. The Artlink team of Mikey and Crandall is the first pairing of its kind for the program. Learn more about the station at https://www.musictampabay.com/.

Creative Clay’s 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 team of professional artists provide outreach art experiences to people with disabilities, as well as children, veterans and those in shelters. Follow Creative Clay on Facebook; on Instagram at @creativeclaystpete and on Twitter at @creativeclay.