Alternative Creations Studio, located in artists’ ‘haven,’ makes most of place
Michelle Strutzenberger

The best way to create a community of belonging could be to make the most of its assets, connections and opportunities. This is the approach Alternative Creations Studio, an artists’ workshop operated through posAbilities, is taking by participating in an east Vancouver arts event again this year.

The studio, which artists who have a disability use, is located in the vicinity of the annual Eastside Culture Crawl, a free, visual arts event happening Nov. 16-18.

Over the three days, more than 10,000 people visit artists in their studios in the area bounded by Main Street and Victoria Drive north of First Avenue in Vancouver.

Since moving to its current location three years ago, Alternative Creations Studio has been opening its doors for the duration of the event as well.

It just makes sense, Alternative program lead Cindy Mateush says, noting she feels this is the best way to build community, “when something doesn’t have to be pushed or prodded.”

“We just fit.”

Cindy notes the crawl is a significant opportunity for the Alternative artists to showcase their work and meet their neighbours. They also have a chance to make a small contribution to the community by offering hot chocolate to the touring crowd.

What Cindy describes as a logical approach aligns in a way with the message of bestselling author and community advocate Peter Block in his book, Community: the Structure of Belonging.

“To continue, as a community, to focus on the needs and deficiencies of the most vulnerable is not an act of hospitality. It substitutes labeling for welcoming. It is isolating in that they become a special category of people, defined by what they cannot do,” Block writes.

The alternative, according to Block, is to reduce labeling in the name of service and connect people who were previously strangers.

The next step is to invite people into conversations that ask them to act as creators or owners of community.

PosAbilities’ commitment is to build and participate in a community where all persons are welcomed and where all members are valued for who they are and for the contributions they make.

“This is the vision of an inclusive community — a place characterized by diversity, hospitality, belonging and respect,” the organization’s vision statement proclaims.

Joining a major cultural event given one’s proximity and interests is one thread in realizing this vision, according to Cindy.

To learn more about the Eastside Culture Crawl, click here.

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