Creative Spirit Supports Artists with Disabilities

Creative Spirit festival performance.

Founded in 1992 by Ellen Anderson, Creative Spirit Art Centre is an art gallery and studio that is dedicated to advancing the creative power of artists with disabilities. Ellen Anderson started the centre for her son Gabe, who has cerebral palsy and loves art, but was unable to continue his work after he no longer had access to special education at 21.

Since then, Creative Spirit has relocated to 999 Dovercourt Road and over the years has welcomed artists with a range of abilities to use the studio space and exhibit their art work. Creative Spirit is listed by VSA (Very Special Arts) under its global community listing. Recently, it has hosted a three-day festival and conference in October to showcase the accomplishments in accessible arts from across Canada.

Ellen Anderson, Executive Director of Creative Spirit talks at the festival.

During my visit at Creative Spirit, I was impressed by the bright and colourful space. I spoke with Ellen, while two artists worked on sketches at the centre table. Ellen took me on a tour of the space and showed many of the art works that were completed by members.

Artist Gabe Anderson.

Ellen has worked hard to make the space completely accessible. The studio uses low-toxic materials. Artists have professional, height-adjustable tables. Lighting is installed at a wide angle to diffuse throughout the area.

Hanni Sager is the artist whose art dolls are exhibited at the centre until January 29, 2011. Known as ‘The Toy Lady’, Hanni is severely disabled with muscular dystrophy, but her indomitable spirit enables her to run toy-making workshops for orphans with disabilites in Mexico.

Grazia Merigioli, a painter, has been a member for two years due to her heart condition. She is also a volunteer at centre and is making cards for the February auction. Grazia says “It’s a wonderful centre. The people are friendly. I enjoy coming here.”

It’s a wonderful centre. The people are friendly. I enjoy coming here.

Creative Spirit artists working.

To become a member of Creative Spirit, artists have to go through an application process by presenting a portfolio and are taken on a trial-basis. There are different types of memberships depending on the needs of the artist. Some require studio time and others can showcase their work.

Go see Hanni Sager’s art dolls at Creative Spirit before January 29, 2011. To find out more about Very Special Arts, visit http://www.vsarts.org. Learn how to donate or volunteer at Creative Spirit Art Centre here. Like Creative Spirit on Facebook.

Aasana Sri is the Fall 2010 Communications Intern at the Toronto Arts Foundation.

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