Man looking closely at a work of art at a gallery.

The Intersection of Faith, Creativity, and Disability

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This article is part of our Summer 2021 Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses the arts and disability. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers

by Becky Jones

CRC Disability Concerns, Burlington ON

As a little girl, I was always so excited for the blank page on the back of the bulletin. Little did I know that it was intended for taking notes from the sermon, not a blank slate for drawing during the sermon. The church was even kind enough to provide little pencils for drawing, which some used for filling out the offering envelopes. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t drawing while listening to sermons. The act of creating allowed me to connect with my thoughts and feelings, and it still allows me to listen well and to think clearly.

Prior to my current work with the Christian Reformed Church, I worked in the arts. I spent years as an art therapist, working with people from different walks of life, helping them use their creativity to express themselves. I was able to work with families who had loved ones diagnosed with dementia. I worked in a respite care home for children who are medically fragile. I was part of specialty teams within schools that provided care to children who came with a wide variety of challenges that made it difficult for them to integrate in regular classrooms. I also spent a great deal of time working with families who have children with Down syndrome. While this represents a variety of amazing individuals, the common denominator for getting to know them was art.

As an art therapist, each person I worked with found a means for self-expression. For one gentleman, little was known of his childhood or background when he entered a home for seniors. Through time working with him to make collages, I noticed he was drawn to pictures of rural settings. Ever so slowly, we as a care team started to piece together his history as this creative medium assisted him to remember and share with us.

Perhaps my biggest pleasure was allowing a larger audience to experience their creative expression. The Art Gallery of Burlington asked me to curate an exhibition, sharing the value of art therapy. “Visual Voice: Art Therapy in Our Community” allowed many of the people I had worked with through different organizations to share their artistic work in a public gallery. What a beautiful way to show how valued they are!

I am so thankful that I leaned in to wonder why God had given me a deep desire to create from a very young age. It has offered me the opportunity to connect with others and help them connect with the creativity that is within, while also giving them a new form of personal expression.

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Love this! So good. We have several art projects done by our daughter around our home and yard. She was blessed with a teacher who encouraged her artistic gifts. She also has a rather amazing flare at fashion design and sometimes I wished there was a way to tap into that gift professionally.