Experience & Philosophy
My philosophy is grounded in a social and historical understanding of the impact that inequality has on mental health. I pay attention to the ways that systemic social forces shape the choices we have and how we understand, interpret, articulate, experience, and respond to the world- and in doing so, open up unforseen possibilities while supporting you to find your way back to self, in relation to others.
For over a decade and a half, I have worked from an integrative approach drawing together interdisciplinary methods of support and community building at the intersections between mental health, education, accessible arts, and grassroots community organizing.
The latest synthesis of mental health / education / accessible arts / organizing is my work with Artists Without Barriers; a community arts organization run by and for artists with disabilities that provides free and accessible: studio space, a scribe (or translator) for artist to convey their creative vision, arts education (drawing, painting, art history), counselling and creativity coaching, portfolio development and exhibition support, and grassroots organizing skill development in disability arts.
The project arose out of an awareness that healing necessarily involves a collective, collaborative, and creative organizing approach, and as such is not an individual or isolated process. It arose out of a double-edged approach to both challenging power domination, exploitation and oppression, and creating alternatives – by building relations of solidarity, affinity, mutual aid, and equitable collaborative partnerships.
Relations of affinity, mutual aid, equitability and collaboration are cultivated by turning the traditional helping model on it’s head. Instead of perpetuating the disablist perspective that artists with disabilities as ‘unable’ to create artwork – because they do not put pen to paper, communicate but not through words, have vision but are non-sighted – we created the conditions where this was possible. By pairing up people who need each other – scribes who want to learn to create, and artists with vision, we created a strength from two needs. And by situating the artists as the experts and leaders of the creative process, we turned the traditional helping model on it’s head.
The process of training scribes to accurately translate artist’s vision is a complex process, involving deep listening, critical disability analysis and experiential learning in interdependence, self-reflection, and ongoing coaching support. Scribes learned to listen using all of their senses to expand their perceptual abilities, develop critical thinking, relational and communication skills, and learn about transforming power-over relations in to relations of power-to-do. And as artists began to trust that they had the support they needed, it became possible to generate visual imagery and creative methodologies that challenge and re-write the definition of artistic practise, accessible communication, and accessible public spaces.
In my role as director of creative wellness – as a scribe, as a trainer of scribes, and creativity coach for artists – and in my role as director of organizational development – cultivating the organizations vision, mission, and methodology – I learned how to coordinate high levels of collaborative synchronization at both the individual and the collective level. It is the synchronization and attunement work between individuals and collectively that lies at the heart of what research indicates is the driving force of therapeutic change – the therapeutic alliance.