Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A creative gem in the heart of Toronto

By Louise Kinross

This morning my son and I visited an arts program at L'Arche Toronto.  Sol Express runs two programs during the year: One is for actors with disabilities and the other is for creative artists with disabilities.

They each run two days a week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The L'Arche building in the Pape and Danforth area is a beautiful renovated church with studios upstairs. I wrote about visiting the original L'Arche community, founded by Canadian humanist Jean Vanier, in France a couple of years ago. L'Arche brings adults with and without intellectual disabilities together to live and work as peers in 147 communities around the world.  

The summer is a little bit different at Sol Express, but my son and I dropped in on some warm-up exercises for performers. We sat in a circle and did some name games with gestures with two artists leading the group and about six other participants. By the way, I just wrote down every single one's name, so the game worked.

We had a tour of the art studios, which reminded me of some of the things you'd expect to see at Holland Bloorview's Centre for the Arts. There was a cool paper mâché forest of trees, a gorgeous book of photos of participants wearing elaborate masks they'd created, and a large assortment of hats and costumes.

Other memories include watching a funny, black-and-white, silent movie the performers had produced, in costume, and my son strumming a blue ukulele while a leader played Stand By Me and Rock Around the Clock on her guitar.

Sol Express is a welcoming, kind place. I could see my son developing friendships there. I liked being there and being included.


A good friend of Jessie's, who was one of the founding members of VATTA (Voices at the Table Advocacy Group, youth & adults with Down syndrome advising and directing the national board of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society), Andreas does drama with Sol Express. He is a consummate actor and loves his time there. He is also one of my most favoritest people of all time! A lovely place for Ben to hang out and continue to grow and expand his self and universe.