Imagine a space where people of all abilities could come together in an engaging arts-based atmosphere to create and support each other and work towards a common goal. It almost sounds too dreamy to be true, but that’s exactly what Solo Chicken Productions have been doing through The Spirit Project initiative.
Launched in May of 2019, in partnership with the local chapter of L’Arche, an international organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual disabilities, Solo Chicken Productions (SCP), together with the help of some supportive community partners, have been hosting an ongoing series of arts-based workshops for people of all abilities including adults with intellectual disabilities.
Through explorations in visual arts, film, theatre, improv and dance, The Spirit Project has confidently demonstrated what a truly inclusive community can accomplish.
“I am so proud of this project, honoured to be doing this work and excited to share this work with the world,” said Lisa Anne Ross, SCP’s artistic producer, in announcing the Project’s next move.
We Are Luminous will take the form of a three day performance at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre showcasing how the Spirit Project has created a community of performers unlike any other in the city.
“Facilitating this project has without a doubt been the highlight of my artistic practice where the disparate arms of my work come together in a liminal space of deep learning, deep listening and pure joy,” said Ross. “This may sound like a touch of hyperbole, but I have been blown away by how affected I have been by this experience. Each week provides incredible opportunities to learn, to listen with the whole body, to let go of expectations and engage in experience and to really see the gifts of the folks you share the space with. And, I feel like this learning reverberates far past the weekly workshops and has infused my teaching, my professional practice and even my life.”
The events – happening June 24, 27 and 29 – will present a walk through a day at The Spirit Project, featuring a group warm-up, meditation, games and special performances, each concluding with an offering of food created by HUB in the Kitchen, led by Chef Yves. Audience members will either sit ‘in’ the circle with participants or will view from an adjacent seating area. These performances will be relaxed, which means lights will be on, noise will be moderated, and all are welcome to participate and be in the space in anyway. At the time of this announcement, all performers and audience members will be masked and will be seated at a distance.
For Ross, The Spirit Project has helped provide her with a completely new experience. An accomplished performer and instructor known regionally for her exploratory work in physical theatre, this project is among the most diverse she has been involved in with programming and a structure all its own.
“When we embarked on this project over two years ago, I had never had the opportunity to work specifically with folks with intellectual disabilities and had also never developed a mixed ability creative space,” said Ross, “As you enter into a new experience you are always filled with questions and even a little fear. Do I have the right skills for the job? Will the project be meaningful? And more importantly, will our participants have fun?”
“I think the key to this project was partnering with L’Arche and building our vision of the project together. We discovered that the mandate and vision of L’Arche ‘to make know the gifts of adults with intellectual disabilities’ not through programs specifically for folks with intellectual disabilities but through building opportunities for everyone to be in community together was elemental. The Spirit Project is not simply for adults with intellectual disabilities. It is a creative space where folks of all abilities can come together and create and share,” she said.
“Being together in community creates opportunities for deep inclusion. Inclusion that defies the overused word and throws expectations to the wind!”
The Spirit Project brings Solo Chicken Productions’ inclusive collaboration, We Are Luminous, to Charlotte Street Arts Centre for three by-donation performances, June 24, 27 and 29. For more information, click here.
Matt Carter is a writer, photographer, and father who lives in Devon with his family.
This article was first published in Grid City Magazine on June 16, 2021.