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May 10, 2001 In the spotlight with the Centre for the Arts in Human Development



Friends toss a ball in a net in the movement workshop.

Jerry Cardillo, centre, and friends toss a ball in a net in the movement workshop.

Lenore Vosberg, Jonathan Birks

Lenore Vosberg presented Jonathan Birks with a plaque acknowledging the support of the Birks Family Foundation.

Robert Chubb

Robert Chubb charms the crowd with his tap-dancing.

Singers from the Centre

From left to right, Amedeo Melucci, Stephen Snow, Shelley Snow and Robert Chubb sing a number from one of the Centre’s shows.

Photos by Vincenzo D’Alto


by Barbara Black

It has gone from strength to strength. The Centre for the Arts in Human Development started in the mid-1990s as a combination of community outreach, opportunity for research, and training-ground for arts therapists. Five years, three musical productions and at least one national television documentary later, it’s a smash success.

“We believe in people. We believe in the arts.” That’s the credo of the Centre, as expressed by Professor Stephen Snow at a buffet lunch held last Friday in The Hive, on the Loyola Campus. About 140 invited guests had just enjoyed sitting in on music and movement workshops in Hingston Hall with the Centre’s intellectually handicapped clients, who attend the Centre several days a week throughout the school year.

Birks donation

Among the invited guests was Jonathan Birks, representing the Birks Family Foundation, which has given a substantial donation to maintain the Centre’s Community Outreach Program for the next seven years.

Entertainment at the lunch was provided by the Centre’s participants, who sang and tap-danced musical numbers from past shows. These are original musicals built on well-known stories—the story of Aladdin, the sequel to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland have formed the basis for shows so far—but the songs and dialogue are built around the particular abilities of the actors.

Anyone who saw Oh, That Aladdin!, The Winds of Oz and And Alice Dreams. . . can tell you how charming and impressive these productions are. The actors are thoroughly prepared and quietly coached through their performances. The music, composed and arranged by Shelley Snow, is played by professionals, and in fact, a compact disc is being made to showcase some of these numbers.

The actors obviously love what they’re doing. Most of them seem to thrive on being in the spotlight, and take on self-confidence and poise that surprise and touch their families.

Genuine talent is discovered through this work. The young woman who played Alice in last spring’s production wasn’t able to perform her song at the luncheon because she was in Las Vegas and Boston, performing to raise funds for a foundation supporting people with Williams’ syndrome, which she has.

Looking for a home

Lenore Vosberg is a social worker with the West Montreal Readaptation Centre. It was her idea to do the first musical production; she is now also the clinical coordinator and fundraiser for the Centre. She says that the Birks donation is much appreciated, but the Centre is not out of the woods yet.

The next challenge is to find a permanent home for their workshops and rehearsals. As construction begins on the new science complex at Loyola, the Department of Communication Studies and Journalism will take some of the space now used by the Centre in Hingston Hall.

The next show will be mounted in spring 2002. While you’re waiting, you can purchase one of the CDs produced by the Centre; they’ll be available by the beginning of June, for $20. Call 848-8619 to order one.