Artists Without Barriers: Discovering Creative Freedom

Artists without Barriers

By Jennifer A. Conroy and Adam R. Cohoon.

My name is Jennifer Conroy. I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and from the time I was young, my mother and the rest of my family taught me that despite living with a disability, I could do whatever I wanted.

Writing became a creative outlet for me at an early age; I began to realize that I had a talent for finding just the right words to get my point across, and to this day, writing poetry and short stories remains a cathartic exercise for me. Whether I need to get my anger or sadness out, or to just plain get people to sit up and pay attention, it’s a medium that serves me well.

When I first heard about Artists Without Barriers, I was intrigued. My boyfriend had been an AWB artist for years, and urged me to get involved.

I have always loved art and one of my favourite pass times growing up was going on trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario with my mom, and spending hours poring over wondrous works of art. But because of my physical limitations, I was unsure that I would be a good fit with AWB. I had taken an art class in high school, but had needed a great deal of assistance and, though each class was interesting and fun, I felt somewhat defeated at the end of them, as though the work wasn’t mine and that of my educational assistant’s. At Artists Without Barriers, however, I soon learned that the creative philosophy is worlds apart from anything I’d ever known before.

With the help of a scribe, I was able to put down an image on paper; I simply described the picture I wanted to portray, and, working with me, the scribe drew an image that was to my liking.

I have been a part of AWB for almost three years now, and I have come to enjoy art even more now. I have come to view it in much the same way as I do my writing; painting is a form of self-expression. I have always thought that, but now that I’m an artist myself, I actually live it. When I’m working on my art, it’s as if I no longer have a disability; there are no limits, no barriers to what I can accomplish. With the help of a scribe, I can soar to creative heights I never dreamed possible; I can express any feeling, any emotion through my art without fear of being misunderstood. AWB is also an organization where I feel I belong. Living with a disability can be very isolating; you can feel so excluded from everything. But at AWB, one of the principle things we promote is inclusion.

Scribes are an integral part of AWB. Without their unique gifts and talents we as artists would be unable to show the world our uniqueness and individuality. So I fully encourage anyone out there who loves art as much as we do and who wants to make a difference to become a scribe. And together, we can make something truly beautiful.

You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and email us or visit us at these two locations:

Etobicoke Studio

Tuesdays 12:30pm to 3:00pm

(in partnership with the West Toronto Diabetes Education Centre)

365 Evans Ave. Suite 202 | Toronto, ON M8Z 1K2

Downtown Studio

Thursdays 2:30pm to 5:30pm

(in partnership with The 519 Church Street Community Centre)

519 Church Street | Toronto, ON M4Y 2C9

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