Finding a Voice

People living with disabilities face many barriers, not the least of which is having their voices heard. An innovative partnership between the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre (SSILC) and Common Weal Community Arts provides these individuals with opportunities to develop their artistic potential and tell their stories.

Through the Creative Partnerships program, multi-disciplinary performing artist and educator, Traci Foster, trained SSILC clients in voice and movement to create their own performance pieces. The free workshops filled quickly.

"Emerging artists are beginning to look for ways to expand their experience in performance and community involvement," she says. "This experience has been rich and rewarding - beyond words."

One participant, who describes herself as being "in and out of psychiatric hospitals for a significant portion of my adult life" says, "I am being encouraged and actually coached, for the first time really, to do something with my writing and storytelling gifts. I have grown leaps and bounds personally and socially."

A participant with post-traumatic stress disorder says the workshops helped reduce her symptoms. "This work has helped me in having confidence and especially in taking risks in my life. It has truly helped me to start finding my voice. I actually didn't even know I had lost it, until I started taking Traci's class!"

Finding a Voice

Gerry Ruecker, Southern Artistic Director for Common Weal, says the legacy of the program will be in cultural community development. "Participants have expressed, as a result of the program, feeling healthier, happier, and more independent, and as such, see themselves as contributing citizens who have a voice and stake in the life of the community."

The Creative Partnerships program is delivered in collaboration with SaskCulture Inc., through funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation, and the Ministry of Education.

Common Weal also receives funding from the Professional Arts Organizations Program.

Front page: Traci Foster performs with guest artist Alan Shane at an event celebrating disabilities through the arts. Photo credit: Gerry Ruecker

Above left: Guest artist Fides Krucker conducts a voice and song workshop. Photo credit: Kathy Saunders

Above right: Participants in the SSILC and Common Weal program. Photo credit: Gerry Ruecker