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October 24, 2002 Exploring the arts enriches lives of special people



Participants in a movement workshop at the open house held by the Centre for the Arts in Human Development on May 9. The workshops were held in the basement of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, near the Loyola Campus.

Photo by Vincenzo D'Alto

by Julie Demers

Close to 100 relatives and friends of participants at the Centre for the Arts in Human Development (CAHD) attended an Open House last Friday.

Unique in Canada, the Centre for the Arts in Human Development’s program uses the creative arts — music, visual art, movement, drama — to promote the development and well being of people with intellectual disabilities.

“The progress made by these adults in one year is colossal,” exclaimed graduate student Sonja Boodajee.

Concordia is the only Canadian university to offer a master’s program in the creative arts therapies, and the Centre provides clinical internships for up to 10 first-year graduate students in art therapy and drama therapy.

Founded in 1994 by social worker Lenore Vosberg together with experts in drama therapy, art therapy and educational psychology, the CAHD gives students hands-on experience. Boodajee’s internship at the Centre is demanding but fulfilling. “Outside this program, the participants feel like outcasts, but here, they know they belong.”

That’s probably why they were expressing mixed feelings at the Open House. The 37 intellectually challenged adults knew it was their last day of the season, and 17 participants were marking the end of the three-year program. While they were happy to share their experience with their families and friends, they didn’t want it to stop.

Visitors were invited to join the workshops as participants made different sounds, danced and used maracas and bongos.

Shelley Snow, the music therapy co-ordinator, made sure everyone had a chance to express themselves. “Every participant feels part of the group,” Boodajee said.

While this workshop was taking place, Elizabeth Anthony, the arts therapy co-ordinator, was supervising another group using a variety of techniques with paint and pastels. A drama workshop is also given by the Centre.

After the workshops, everyone rushed to The Hive for a luncheon.

The Loyola campus cafeteria was transformed, with an art exhibit, and costumes and designs from last year’s original musical production, The Legend of Pinocchio.

Vosberg, director of the Centre, told the luncheon guests about collaborations with academic departments.
These include a three-year research project by the Department of Education, and an events management internship by a diploma student at the John Molson School of Business.

The Centre has also drawn on community resources in an original way. Last year, students from Venture High School took part in the Pinocchio production, working with the intellectually handicapped “stars.”

After Vosberg had expressed her thanks to the sponsors, staff, researchers, interns, volunteers and participants, Concordia’s Vice-Rector (Institutional Relations) and Secretary-General Marcel Danis took the stage to say that the Concordia Found-ation would match any monies raised by the Centre until Dec. 31, 2003, an announcement that was received with shouts of joy.

The Centre is staging a benefit concert called I Can, with jazz singers and dancers and emceed by CJAD morning man Andrew Carter, at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. General admission, $30. Tickets available at Admissions, 790-1245, www.admission.com, or the OPCH box office, 848-4848.