Providence Farm, in collaboration with international performance artist Yuko Yamamoto, and other local artists have launched an ambitious year long art self expression art project. (Thank you to the Esther's Dream fund and the CVRD for supporting this project) About a dozen participants will have weekly workshops in different art media from silk painting to dance that will culminate in a self expression project as a performance piece or a stand alone piece.
Last week we held a bbq for all those attending and participating in the project and yesterday we had our first workshop.
"In our first session, Isabella, Austin, Steve F., David S., Bella, Raven, Muriel, Kori, Nan, Peter and Yuko participated and each made a doll. Nick filmed us. On the back side of the doll, the artist's name and a number/numbers were written. What were these numbers? Each number seemed to have its own story.... : - Yuko
Background: This project seeks to disrupt and change the representation of people with disabilities in our society. The social challenge that this project seeks to tackle is the way that persons with special needs are marginalized through the social construction of their identity as a one dimensional, “other,” and often “less than.” Persons with disabilities have long been isolated and disenfranchised by our sociocultural tendency to “speak for” this segment of our population. Neurodiversity and physical/developmental differences have been used to justify the exclusion of the disability community – creating an imbalance in the flow of knowledge where able bodied, neuro typical people have inherited the power to define the identities, and narrate the experiences, of differently abled people.
Although art is often perceived as the bastion of the “outsider,” the cultural processes and products of art are heavily determined by persistent social patterns of power that often serve to reinforce these paradigms. Although artistic tastes have largely departed from the tradition/history of rigid class distinctions, hierarchies still very much persist – with an artist’s identity playing heavily into the way in which their art is perceived and received. Although “outsider” art has entered cultural sensibilities, art created by people with disabilities is still very much considered as distinct, separate, and often second class to that created by “regular” individuals. This imbalance occurs despite wellmeaning advocates and what Westley (2008) defines as a “breakdown in sense making” creating demand for cultural products inclusive of diverse voices, abilities, and experiences. The challenge now lies in disrupting the flow of knowledge, deeply rooted in our entrenched social hierarchies (in which ability factors heavily), where those with the power to create representation continue to define the identities of those without such ingrained privilege. By providing participants with the artistic mechanisms to explore and determine their own identity, and the platform by which to express it, this project seeks to shift the flow of knowledge so that people with disabilities control the depiction of their experience. It is our belief that these representations will challenge problematic beliefs on what it means to have special needs, and how differently abled people participate in our culture. By changing fundamental beliefs, action follows – resulting in a more inclusive and resilient society.