Challenging Stereotypes


Mark your calendars for the last week in March. The Arts Ability project will be showcased as an innovative approach to facilitate opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities within organizational, agency and healthcare institutional settings.

“Challenging Stereotypes: A Celebration of the Arts in Community” is a national event taking place in Winnipeg from March 25 to 27, 2004. Over 30 presenters with and without disabilities will perform and participate in panel discussions, programming workshops and hands-on art activities.

Sue Proctor, Arts Program Manager for the Arts Ability project, says, “The event in March is to be an inspiration – to celebrate artists with disabilities who are actively involved in their communities.” It will be a vibrant social environment of performers, presenters, visual artists and other community members interested in exploring creative self and collective expression. The event will provide people with opportunities to network and learn new skills. It will highlight experiences, achievements and insights gained from the two-year Arts Ability art program and evaluative research project.

Manitoba artists, actors, musicians and dancers have been sharing their passion for creativity. These artists – some with and some without disabilities – facilitate creative expression among people of all ages in a variety of settings: children with learning disabilities within northern Cree community schools; teens and adults with cognitive and sensory disabilities in day programs; adults with mental health disabilities in a consumer-driven organization; and seniors within a live-in hospital who experience dementia. Art has been used to communicate life experiences, transform relationships and increase community participation. For some, art has shifted their perspectives of themselves and others in the world.

It is this potential for individual, interpersonal and societal change that is of great interest to principal researcher Dr. Kari Krogh of Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies. She and co-investigator Maya Gislason have documented the ways the program has influenced individuals with disabilities as well as those who provide support. As part of a larger program of research on home support, Kari is studying the potential impact of creating open non-directive spaces for artistic expression – particularly as it relates to increasing consumer voice and leadership within support relationships.

The approach of artist animators is inspired by a commitment to playful exploration. The knowledge base of animators has grown through facilitated training sessions based on internal and external evaluations including insightful assessments made by Disability Culture promoter Catherine Frazee. Over time, the work of animators and their apprentices has increasingly become influenced by disability studies scholarship and activism.

The Canadian Centre on Disability Studies (CCDS), a consumer-directed, university-affiliated centre dedicated to disability research, education and information dissemination, is host to the Arts Ability project. CCDS believes that expression and competency in the arts can expand and enrich opportunities for more equitable participation in society.

The Arts Ability project has been funded by the J.W. McConnell Foundation, Human Resources Development Canada and Manitoba Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. For more information, see or contact Robb Nickel at (204) 287-8411 or

(Kari Krogh is Principal Investigator, CIHR Senior Research Fellow & Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at Ryerson University (; Maya Gislason is Research Manager and University of Victoria Graduate Student of Sociology (; and Sue Proctor is Arts Program Manager, CCDS.)


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