Watch Joy of Expression, above, the TV documentary produced by Accessible Media Inc. featuring Shimshon Obadia’s collaborative self-advocacy work in action! And read on below to learn more about Obadia’s soft activism work with the Cool Arts Society.
Cool Arts for Everyone
Kelowna’s adaptive art studio sharing some creativity practice and a little more.
By Shimshon Obadia.
In the heart of downtown Kelowna, up the stairs of the Rotary Centre for the Arts, down the hall and to the left, lies the little adaptive art studio that the Cool Arts Society calls home. This is where I spend most days, collaborating with my fellow disabled artist peers. It’s a place where developmental disabilities and other like-exceptionalities are not be a barrier, but instead play as the creative impetus to share the unique perspectives of this artistic community, too often dismissed by a seemingly incompatible world. This place is a dream that’s became the Cool Arts Society. Nearly two decades in since founder, Sara McDonald started this organization with her son, Jordan Lige, and we no inhabit a professional studio three times the size of the literal garage it started in — it remains a hub for those of us who see the world in another light; and allows for our differences to be genuine strengths instead of the limitations they’ve so commonly been misconstrued as.
Here, there are programs that run every day of the week and then some. Each program is designed for our member-artists to embrace themselves publicly and thus engage in the time honoured soft activism practice of self-advocacy. Artists who have been through, and overcome, incredible trials exhibit and sell works that speak in nuanced and profound ways to their local community. Now at Cool Arts we’re trying something new to add to the roster. Inspired by our organization’s long history of collaborations: between other artists and organizations in Kelowna — ranging from the BCSPCA, to the Inspired Word Café Society, to the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Arts — our group is taking this zeal for cooperative art-making another step further by opening the studio’s doors to the public!
The program is called Mentorship Studio and is a co-mentorship program that will be running Fridays during Cool Arts’ regular terms from 1:00PM to 3:00PM. Running one day a week, it’s a drop-in offering open to everyone: Cool Arts members, their families, folks with disabilities, folks without, and anyone interested in taking part in all the inspiring work done at Cool Arts. This exciting new offering is a much more self-guided program than our traditional workshops have been and is focused on providing an opportunity and space for creative exchanges. Whether it’s the pursuit or one’s own creative endeavours, or just trying something new you’re inspired to take on from one of the staff or volunteer mentors, or even a fellow creative dropping into Mentorship Studio for the first time; Cool Arts is welcoming you to connect, share, and create together.
So to celebrate the next chapter in Cool Arts’ story, our organization’s artists have created a show currently hanging up in the hallway gallery just outside their studio in the Rotary Centre for the Arts. The show launching this new program is called Collaborations and has been created, curated, and hung by the artists themselves from start to finish. What makes this particular show so special is that it was put together with the single aim of embodying the ideals of Mentorship Studio. Whether the paintbrush was passed, brushstroke by brushstroke, or one artist each created an individual section of a whole piece, or even created simultaneously by a multitude of artists at once, this show demonstrates the best part of what happens when we work together to embrace and express our differences as one.
Visit www.CoolArts.ca to learn more about the Cool Arts Society.