Contributed by Jessika Thickson, Art Facilitator
For a lot of people, drawing doesn’t come naturally. We’ve all at some point picked up a pencil and have attempted to draw with grandiose visions of creating what is in our mind’s eye…then we raise our eyebrow to the crudely drawn stick man looking back at us. Such moments can be debilitating, perhaps even so frustrating that once upon ago we gave up on art. But what if I told you, that you can feel creative in your everyday life and it doesn’t have to include a pencil or a paintbrush?
As an Adaptive Art Facilitator sometimes we have people approach our studio and say “I’d love to be a part of this but I’m not artistic”. The interesting part about that statement is people tend to think of art as just painting or drawing, but it’s so much more than that. Art is all around us, within all occupations and passions. Whether you’re a construction worker (laying foundation for a home) or a chef (frosting a cake), everything ultimately is a part of a design and that’s what we’re doing here, designing social change.
To cultivate creativity we will need to keep an open mind and begin at our core, Person Centered Practices. What is important to them? Generally, we will find the answer to this question is a personal interest. However, rather then taking that interest at face value, ask why is that meaningful to the individual? For instance, if an individual enjoys going to the beach; Ask why? Is it the feeling of sand in between their toes? Do they enjoy the sound of the waves? Perhaps it is watching the boats go by? Remain curious, dissect and engage. The connection is what is meaningful. If an answer doesn’t present itself right away, don’t get discouraged, this is not always an overnight process. Be patient and you will persevere.
Marc Pachter speaks about “The Art of the Interview” from the interviewer perspective, which I believe as support workers we can significantly relate to. We are always looking to get to know the people we serve more deeply and we are consistently inquiring about their latest life events. Pachter refers to these questioners as “agents of self-revelation” ones driven by empathy by “being the brush in their self-portrait”. As support workers we are a resource to the people in our care; we embody the tools that will help them create their identity the way they want to see themselves, as well as how they choose to share themselves with the world.
Once the connection is found share it with everyone: staff team, caregivers, family and friends. This is essential. Each person will more than likely have their own set of knowledge about this interest. By using this joint apperceptive mass we can sculpt experiences that explore this connection in every possible way, which will greatly increase our odds that one of those ways will open another door.
When we take a moment to ask ourselves individually, “What is important to me as a staff?” I’m certain the consensus would be our persons served quality of life. To fully achieve this standard we need to expose them to new opportunities and experiences. Repetition creates pattern, every time a new door opens repeat the cycle again. Expressions know no limits.
While finding the door is an important part of this process, the true value is found in the journey there. Each experience is an opportunity for self-exploration. When we build these pathways Person’s Served will find out new things about themselves, which ultimately will continue to define who they are as a person. Like the applauded Eliot Waugh once said “becoming me was the greatest creative project of my life”.
As humans, knowing who we are is fundamental to our quality of life. Knowing ourselves means that we can clearly define our passions, strengths among many other personal attributes. Later on, these can be applied to various collaborations, where each individual brings their own unique strength to a group to attain a goal.
When people group together an intriguing dynamic occurs when their personalities blend into one, this is known as group identification. To pursue this search for identity within our collectives we must ask ourselves; what is important to us? Within the array of individual passions, seek a mutual link that the group can use as a foundation to define and design its identity. For instance if you have a group of 3; one person likes flowers, one is a vegetarian and the other enjoys making labels we can find gardening to be a core objective where everyone in the group is participating in something they are interested in. Now that our values are in place we can distinguish ourselves as a group with purpose, an effective factor for community leadership. There is strength in numbers, we can take on larger tasks such as taking the jump from exploring their interests in the community to sharing them with their community.
Engaging with community is like having a good conversation. Sometimes we’re listening and sometimes we’re sharing. How we choose to share ourselves with our community will be unique to each home and or program. Due to the diverse nature of this, one way we can support each other’s growth is by developing an open approach to data sharing. The majority of our programs have been involved in leading some sort of event that bridges the community together. There is a multitude of ways on how to accomplish this. By sharing our knowledge with each other and being transparent about our own learning experiences, we won’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. Developing an open source, where users can upload and download various adaptable templates and insights to mold to their own unique visions. With this in play, I believe that we can achieve our goals much stronger and quicker together.
There are no small parts in a community. If we want our aspirations for radical community inclusion to come to fruition we are going to need to play an active role in our community’s growth. This means looking at the community as a whole, asking progressive questions and listening. Such as, what are the needs of the community? Checking in with Neighborhood Houses and local grass root organizations is a great way to retrieve this information. When we know what the needs of the community are we can begin to apply our strengths to address these concerns and be part of the solution. During this process, persons served build awareness of their social identity by understanding that they are making a difference when they impact the lives of others. That they mean something to the people around them and are seen as a purposeful identity in their community.
We all seek to live meaningful lives that are full of purpose and happiness. The more we can exercises our divergent and convergent thinking on persons served core, the more we are supporting them to question themselves and dig up the foundation they build their identities on. Creativity is a state of mind, it is a place of assessment, problem solving, expression and imagination. It is all within each and every one of us. When we ignite these elements we give ourselves permission to create a stronger foundation. When we are strong we can bring colour to the lives of others, which will spread and bring beauty to the world around us. That is true art and it doesn’t have to include a pencil or a paintbrush.
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