Rolling with the dice

July 26, 2018   ·   0 Comments

by Constance Scrafield

Dufferin is replete with fine artists of every type, as well as innovative and amazing entrepreneurs. We are so fortunate with our professional and community theatres. We have an internationally well-known jazz festival and a great many brilliant musicians in our midst. All the time, our lives are enriched with the arts in this splendid corner of Canada.

There is, too, plenty write about the many people with “disabilities” who are doing amazing things. In particular, it is more and more obvious that art is the great equalizer. If we focus on the aspect of self-expression, most people can engage in some form of art as a conveyance for self expression when presented with the opportunity.

For one and all, it is not simply a matter of self-expression, it becomes something more: self-confidence, a release of frustration, as art provides an outlet. The exercise of making or enjoying art is more than producing something to sell in a gallery or tickets to a show. No, the essential importance of art, as artist or audience, is to release the otherwise pent-up, locked-in, even chained, stories of our every day or our whole lives…

Each person carries those daily tales, those life stories; they all need a place to go, a platform to sing at the top of their voices.

Facilitator Joanna Goode told us a story about a young man who was non-verbal, wheelchair-bound, physically very disabled. Eager to find something to which he could respond, she learned that he liked country music. She and her colleagues escorted him line-dancing, moving his wheelchair back and forth in the line-up of dancers, delighted to make space for him. His happiness was clear.

One day, they took him to a Kenny Rogers concert –  wheelchairs to the front, please – and he was ecstatic, fully aware, his day-long, life-long stories set to one side while he completely enjoyed the moment.

It is art that brings us out to be our fullest and happiest selves.

This week we tell the combined stories of Sarah Godfrey and Nathan Gatten, both with special needs, who are artists.  Sarah is also an entrepreneur, selling wearable art in addition to her paintings, prints and cards.

They were introduced to painting, to expressing themselves, and the result has been a tremendous boost to their self-confidence, bringing each of them into the world as whole people, for whom their perceived deficiencies are beside the point. What matters is their interesting and beautiful work and the intelligence that gives birth to it.

For those of you who have been to see one or more of the performances presented by Creative Partners On Stage (C.P.O.S.) or Theatre Orangeville Exceptional Players (T.O.E.P.) which constitute the one-of-a-kind partnership between our Theatre Orangeville and Community Living Dufferin, you know that these productions are marvels of art doing its brightest and  best for the actors on the stage and the audience in the seats.

Music for Memories brings articulation and cognitive renewal to those suffering from dementia. “Henry’s story” on YouTube (maybe still) shows a man who had declined so far as to be non-verbal and not recognizing anyone, until a pair of headphones were placed on his ears with his favourite jazz – music he used to play – was delivered to him. Almost instantly, he responded, snapping his fingers, then humming, then, by god, singing the words. That music brought him back – he was speaking and responding as the degeneration of his mind was overcome! It is an astonishing video and the beginning for many sufferers to come back through music.

The first thing we ever do, as humans, is create. Our baby noises are close to singing with the variation in tones and natural rhythm; babies observe and are excited by colour and light, the fundamentals of visual art; as soon as toddlers can grasp a instrument with which to make a mark, they do and the rough or delicate swipe of a crayon brings a laugh and a desire to repeat the action.

Earlier this year, Theatre Orangeville brought theatre for babies to town and the response was fantastic. Toddlers and younger sat captivated by the funny and fascinating show performed for them over a scant hour. 

Over the years, there has been a push to reduce and eliminate arts programs in the schools. There is so much hard scientific evidence to show the virtually unlimited benefit of all the arts on the human mind, body and soul. There are no exceptions to this.

A great deal of damage is being inflicted on our youth by new educational philosophies as the many skills that help to develop our minds are eliminated. To lessen or stop the teaching of arts is to further rob our children of their rights to beneficial and constructive education.

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