Contributed by Monica Alves, Communications & Event Planning Intern

Rosie loves to paint flowers. Her favourite type to paint? Roses! In fact, in one of her most memorable pieces, Rosie incorporates real rose petals into her design. She began by drawing the silhouette of a body onto her canvas, and then took to the outdoors, on the hunt for the best, biggest and brightest rose petals she could find. Once Rosie was satisfied with her collection, she brought her petals back into the studio, eager to create her masterpiece. She proceeded to glue down the vibrant red petals right onto the silhouette, forming an elegant fairytale-esque gown. To complete the piece, Rosie added a photo of her face to the body, transforming her into a classy fashionista fit for the runway!

As an artist with disabilities, Rosie found a place of encouragement and appreciation at Alternative Creations Studio, a group of 18 creative artists living with diverse abilities. She never fails to bring her gorgeous smile and lovely energy to the room every day she enters it. She makes a point of saying hi to everyone she sees, and is a wonderful addition to the studio.

To get an exclusive behind the scenes look at the inclusive art hive that is Alternatives, let’s meet a few of the amazing team members that run the show…

Caroline Dagg, Team Manager of Alternatives, believes in the power of art as “a medium for us to connect with ourselves and others. We feel art is a catalyst for change. It can spark conversations, friendships, and relationships, and is a way for everyone to be included.”

To celebrate this year’s Eastside Culture Crawl, Alternative Creations Gallery was a featured venue in the salon-style exhibition titled LIT, alongside the Arts Factory, Cultch, and Firehall Arts Centre. This event included work from 60 artists who are participants in the 2017 Culture Crawl. The inspiring theme of light gave artists the chance to show their personal interpretations of what it means to have light and how it is incorporated into their work. Works in this broad-reaching exhibition included painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, video and other media.

It was a true honour for Alternatives to be featured in the opening reception of the Culture Crawl. Co-creation of artworks and co-production of exhibits like LIT and the Eastside Culture Crawl, are important opportunities for Alternatives to grow and develop as an inclusive art studio. In its humble beginnings, Alternatives was first a traditional community inclusion program at posAbilities. Cindy Mateush, the Studio Coordinator, explains how “in 2009, we decided to build a studio and with that came the building of cooperation, community, and respect.”

Through the process of establishing Alternative Creations Studio and the Gallery, the team has discovered a range of ways to engage with the community. They also participated in the Eastside Culture Crawl, a four-day visual arts, design and crafts festival featuring 500+ artists in their studios across 80 buildings in Vancouver. Art Facilitator, Yolanda Weeks, describes the event as a time for “art studios to open up their doors and give the public the chance to see what the art world is up to.”

Of course, no worthy endeavor comes free of challenges. It’s not always easy inviting people into the studio to participate, as this requires breaking down isolation and social barriers. Traditionally, people with developmental disabilities have been kept in their own spaces, whereas we’re looking to invite people in, removing them from their isolation,” says Cindy. But once these people are willing to take a small step outside of their comfort zones, they tend to be surprised and excited with how instantly they’re welcomed into the art community.

The impact Alternative Creations Studio has had on everyone involved is profound. A sense of belonging is a basic human need, and Alternatives works to fulfill this need. Many of their artists face barriers with verbal communication, and the studio provides a safe and welcoming space to express themselves, as creating art is something that all people can take part in.

It brings Yolanda great joy to help these artists create unique art. For Cindy, it’s been a rewarding journey, explaining, “As we built this studio, the artists have grown along with us too.”

Caroline expresses, When I think of Alternative Creations Studio, it inspires me with what they are able to do. We come here to do art more than to just express ourselves. It’s a far more reaching message to create relationships and break down barriers bit by bit with our art pieces.”

Check out Alternative Creations Studio’s Facebook page here or explore our other community inclusion services here.


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