This week, I’d like to place the focus around these two words, the concept of community more specifically. This week, a lot of passion and hard work finally materialized into an incredible event that I feel so privileged to have been at the forefront of (with the collaborative effort of a beautiful, talented, compassionate and dedicated co-worker/friend!) This week, a community of incredible, committed and like-minded people came together to celebrate the people we support and the creative work they’ve done. It was a call out to the greater community to recognize and appreciate a smaller community and population whose contributions largely remain invisible. As Deaf and hard-of-hearing people with an array of developmental and physical disabilities, they can be multiply ostracised from communities: from society at large, from the community of the city, from the disability community (due to potential language barriers), and from the Deaf community (due to their disabilities – Deafness is not a disability, it is a Culture). This makes the community that we (I use ‘we’ and ‘ours’ to describe everyone involved, not just those who are staff or in positions of power) have created even more inclusive & intimate, therefore being important for well-being, confidence, social outlets and a sense of ‘home’. As with any community, it is not ‘perfect’ (there are always criticisms and shortcomings), but it is ours. We are always shifting and changing and growing and evolving. I also think it’s important to reach out, to connect and to collaborate. This is where I hope we will be heading towards as the program and the project develops and expands.
“[Deaf art] is to entertain, share and educate in ways that express Deaf experience through their eyes. If we study Deaf art, we would notice emphasis on the hands and face, contrasting textures and strong intense colours” (Joanne Cripps, on Deaf Culture)
The greater community has a vast and vibrant arts scene. It was so incredible just to take up even a fragment of that space the other night. Late in 2011, an agency arts program was started by the lovely Amber, and has already flourished into something worth sharing. The Art Show was held in a local coffee bar and advertised throughout many different avenues in the city. It was a call-out to celebrate community, diversity, Deaf Culture and the creative spirit. It was also a way to raise funds and resources to keep the program alive and expanding. The walls were covered with bright vibrant prints, photographs, and water colour paintings. Multicoloured papier mache lanterns hung in the large front window, the tiny ceiling lights illuminating the pinks, oranges and purples. The large collaborative art canvas piece sold even before the formal gala began. So many people turned out, the room was packed – bodies mingling, moving, Signing, voicing, gazing, drinking, eating, laughing. The frenzy to buy the art pieces built up throughout the evening, people running to the front to get in their orders, lots of little red dots quickly covering the frames on the walls.The energy was electric and there was so much pride in that small space. This is the importance of community – it provides a platform for love, support and recognition.
(relaxing after the show)
Art is so multiple. Art cannot have an unattainable or singular definition. Art should be accessible. Art is simply one’s way of sharing themselves on canvas, or any other surface or medium. Art is also how you live your life – it’s how you express yourself, view the/your world, and create love. Art needs no training. Art is something from and for the heart.
(‘Hands’ by CS)
I’m so very lucky to live downtown in a city with a close-knit, open-minded, small-town feel to it. People smile and say ”hi” on the street, strangers will stop to strike up an interesting dialogue, store owners will engage in conversation beyond small-talk, people look out for and support each other through small acts of kindness, supporting local food and business, coming out to events, working together to fight political and personal injustice through art, music, theatre, rallies, protests, festivals, workshops, or over a cup of coffee. Of course, it is definitely not all ‘sunshine and kittens‘, but these are the things I witness in some form almost every day. That’s the power of community. It doesn’t hold back.
Right now, I want to build an online community of awesome women who can have a space to share ideas, dreams, rants, struggles, and their creative selves. I’m working on it.
Where do you find community? What purpose does it serve? How can we build better support systems?