Self-Expression Art Series Project 2017-2018

By Peter Spohn: drawing of Earl with the crown he made in one of our performance art making session.

What is Self-Expression Art Series (SEAS)?

SEAS was designed to further social inclusion of people with disabilities (PWD) by replacing the stigma attached to them with appropriate and deeper perception about each person. Many persons with special needs may not have a lot of opportunities to express themselves in others and to change those undesirable stereotypes. SEAS enabled people with disabilities become self-expressive in their art creation and present their products and/or performances to a larger community. I hope that SEAS project empowered participating people with disabilities and helped community members know them better.

What happened in SEAS processes?

I invited 4 facilitating artists, 10 people with special challenges and 2 representatives of a local therapeutic organization to form a group of 17 participating artists. We met once a week for a year to create art together. In our 36 art sessions, we created performance art, animations, written/spoken stories, various paintings, drawing and sculptures etc. collaboratively and individually. Nick Versteeg, one of our collaborating artists made a documentary film of our year-long processes.

How participants were transformed

Throughout the year there were a lot of surprises, laughs and tears; we experienced some struggles and clashes as well. I found that all of those dynamic interactions nurtured our personal growth. As one example of our transformation, I would like to introduce one of the participating artist’s poem with her permission. She expressed her process of overcoming difficulties.

Written by Raven. Her poem encourages many people; I am one of them.

Importance of mutual support group

As the poem above shows, the participating artists mutually influenced and supported each other. In the group, all the members knew that making art out of his/her own life was a challenge and because of that everyone was supportive to other group members. The more we spent time together, the more we became comfortable expressing honestly and freely. At a certain moment, the group itself became a safe space for everyone.

Exhibition in June 2018 and how the group members are doing after this project

Our group exhibition. “TOGETHER” was held at PORTALS Gallery, Duncan, BC. I believe that we were very successful with this exhibition; we had a lot of positive feedback from participants families, friends, and other community members. The singing presentation performed in the opening reception was incredibly powerful and strong.

Shortly before closing SEAS, some of the participating new artists and I decided to co-organize another art group. We meet to make art together once a week in the gathering room that the Cowichan Valley regional library has generously donated two or three hours once a week. We named our group, “Expression Art Circle”.

Special Thanks to: Bridget Bruneski, Chris Holt, CVAC, CVRD Grant in Aid, Dave Hlannon, Ester’s Dream Foundation, Excellent Frameworks, Providence Farm and many other community members who generously supported SEAS project

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