A few years ago, I read about an upcoming art show of work by artists with disabilities; artists were invited to submit proposals to the Society for Disability Arts and Culture in Vancouver. My son Jordan was eager to participate, so I helped him with the submission and he was accepted into the exhibition. I then learned that there was an exciting disability arts movement that extended around the world. One thing led to another and in 2003, I founded Cool Arts in Kelowna with some enthusiastic art teachers, artists, and potential participants.
Cool Arts started small – one or maybe two Saturday workshops a month; I recruited artists and art teachers that I knew to volunteer as instructors. Our bank balance was usually under $100 for the first 2 or 3 years. The main idea was to provide a quality arts experience that was accessible for local adults living with a developmental disability. I have realized that Cool Arts is a part of a much bigger picture – it is about art being part of the human experience, it is about community inclusion, and it is about expressing oneself. A common misunderstanding is that Cool Arts, or any art program involving people with intellectual disabilities, is about art therapy. Art therapy is about healing and growth and is important work, but it is not what Cool Arts is about – the mission of Cool Arts is to provide opportunities.
Cool Arts has been received very well in the community. The quality of the work and instruction has served to build our reputation as an authentic arts organization. Nearly all of our workshops have been taught by professional level artists and art teachers, which I believe sets Cool Arts apart from many other disability arts groups. In the past few years, Cool Arts has taken part in some very interesting collaborations and partnerships with other organizations. This has served to broaden the borders of what we do, as well as bring about a greater degree of community inclusion.
Sara McDonald (Lige)
Founder, Past President