Our Community: H’Art Centre

Our Community: H’Art Centre


WOMAN: Our voices. MAN: Our stories. GROUP: Our community. [MUSIC…] [SHORE BIRDS CHIRP…FERRY HORN BLOWS…] [MUSIC – DAVID ARCHIBALD,
“SPIRIT OF THE INLAND SEA”] And we belong to these waters. And we are born on this wind. NARRATOR: Singer-songwriter
David Archibald’s song “Spirit of the Inland Sea”
pays homage to the Great Lakes and the communities
that surround them, including the City of Kingston. It lies on the eastern
part of Lake Ontario at the entrance of the
Saint Lawrence River, and it’s at the
heart of our story. The spirit of which
Archibald sings is embodied and infused
throughout the community. There’s the Wolfe Island
ferry, a tried, tested, and true attraction and stalwart
for residents and visitors alike. One of the Martello
towers sits prominently at the scenic waterfront,
just one of the many relics and reminders of the city’s
rich military history. Queens University and
its long tradition of academic excellence
and research is another core element
to Kingston’s essence. At the Kingston Public
Market, the oldest market in Ontario, the
sense of community is as palpable and perhaps as
nourishing as the fresh produce and goods for offer. And then there’s the vibrant
arts and cultural scene. Our story is about a
special celebration within this community, a
community growing ever more diverse and nurturing
as it provides many outlets for artistic
expression for people of all abilities. WOMAN: That’s a ball. For what? MAN: Squirrels. WOMAN: For squirrels. NARRATOR: No shortage of that
expression at a boisterous art class in downtown Kingston
where students are creating and presenting their works. KATHERINE PORTER: I’m Katherine
Porter, executive director of the H’art Centre. 20 years ago, I was working with
a young man with Down syndrome and exploring my
career as an artist and moved to Kingston
to continue that. When I moved here, I thought
of incorporating the fine arts with those with
disabilities simply because of this young
man with Down syndrome. The long and short of
it, it just blossomed over the years, and simply
the art and the interest that the special
needs have in the arts and sharing that with
others really is easy, no-brainer thing to do. The H’art Centre is simple. It grew after 20 years
into three different areas of interest. The H’art School itself
focuses primarily on adults with
developmental challenges, 19 all the way to a
hundred years old. And they work in all
aspects of the arts. They have a lot of fun with
professionally trained artists exploring music, dance,
theatre, storytelling. I’m sure I’m forgetting
a few others. And then there’s
the box theatre, which is another huge space
that we have that enables our participants and the
local population with other disabilities to use for theatre
or dance or voice or festivals, any kind of arts gathering
that they would like. And then the third thing is
H’art has set up Able Artists program, where we bring in
professional artists who have worked with people
with special needs or who have
disabilities themselves that wish to share to
a targeted audience. So the able artists work with
the practitioners of tomorrow, the educators of tomorrow. NARRATOR: H’art, spelled
H apostrophe A-R-T, Centre is celebrating
its 20th anniversary. And the crowning jewel
of this celebration comes in the form of a play. It’s called A Gift From
Martadella, an inspiring musical for anyone who believes
they have more to give. KATHRYN MACKAY:
OK, we’re starting. My name is Kathryn MacKay,
and I am the director of A Gift From Martadella. In A Gift From Martadella,
we revisit the characters who played the main characters
in Martadella’s Gift, so 20 years on. 20 years on, they have a child. Their child, like the
lead in Martadella’s Gift, is mute and presents her own
challenges to them as parents. But this play is more about
following your dreams. It’s about expectations
and slotting people into where we think
they should be and not really hearing
what they’re telling you they want to do. The conceit of the play
is that the two actors who play Martadella and
her eventual husband as the hero of the play,
Salamati, they have gone on. Neither of them have become
professional performers, and they have a pizzeria. And they have a daughter named
Stella who, like Martadella in the play, is mute. But she can hear. And so they have these
challenges with Stella, very similar to what they
faced in the play itself. DAVID ARCHIBALD: (SINGING)
I’ll sing with you. Forever, I will sing with you. I’m David Archibald. And I am the co-writer of
the script and the music. And I’m an actor in
the show as well. My connection goes back
probably a dozen years or so. And I’m a singer-songwriter
and playwright. And I was just brought in to
help with various productions. So I’ve performed the role of
facilitator for the students at H’art to write music. We write music together often. And also, I’ve been
participating in the shows as musical director
or composer as well. KATHI TOTH SWITZER:
I’m Kathi Toth Switzer, and I’m co-writer of
the script and the music for A Gift from Martadella. I’m also the co-writer and
director and scriptwriter of the first production
that H’art did, which was called
Martadella’s Gift. I’ve been involved with H’art8
since the very beginning. I was on their
board of directors at the very beginning. And I was involved with
them because I’m a retired special education
teacher and have taught students, adults with
developmental disabilities for 16 years and then children. GROUP: (SINGING) We
are the pizza makers. NARRATOR: On set, the energy
and enthusiasm of the actors is infectious. After the break, we meet a
longtime member and artist of the H’art Centre
who typifies the heart and soul of this community. ANNOUNCER: Our Community
will return after the break. ANNOUNCER: We now
return to Our Community. [MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: The conductor of
the musical score for the play marking the H’art Centre’s
20th anniversary marvels at the growth and
abilities of the students. KATHRYN MACKAY: I
personally am so excited that they are now also
in the pit playing instruments. So they are participating in
all aspects of the theatre production in this
particular production. And I think that’s amazing. KAREN OLIVIER: CNIB is
a Lake Joseph Centre. We’re sharing this praise there. We’re doing the program with
either low vision, loss, they’re blind. The blind can’t
hear, can’t talk. NARRATOR: Karen Olivier is
a longtime artist and member of the H’art Centre. She’s one of a
number of her friends and fellow artists involved
in the musical score of the performance. KAREN OLIVIER: I learned
the different instruments. Kathy showed me how to
do it and everything. KATHERINE PORTER: Karen Olivier
came to the H’art Centre when it was H’art School
almost 17 years ago. She came as an individual
that needed prompting and support into coming out
and actually participating with others. She hadn’t hooked into
the Special Olympics. She hadn’t hooked
into anything else. Her parents, extremely
incredible people and very French-Canadian,
wanted her to explore the arts because
they have their own personality. So Karen started
drumming and started to work alongside other
able-bodied artists that come to the H’art Centre. And before long, there
was an understanding of just what she could
do and couldn’t do. Her parents kept sharing that
she had lived independently, was with CNIB, and
had done so well. Now they were prepared to have
her more integrated with, I guess, sight-seeing
people and engaged in art. So that regardless of how
her eyesight was going to go, like the prognosis
wasn’t good at the time– but since then,
she’s had surgeries. Her energy is good. Her artwork is articulate. And she’s just wonderful. She’s participating in
everything that we have. KAREN OLIVIER: H’art is
a learning disability teach students here at H’art. I know– I know them. I know one person name
is Katherine Porter. I know– I know her
since long time ago. My [INAUDIBLE] student. I know her 18 years. I know Katherine Porter. KATHERINE PORTER:
Her visual impairment has actually
created works of art that you would never
imagine happening. And part of our rule of thumb
is that there’s no editing. There’s no touching
of the artist’s work. So what you end up with
with a Karen Olivier is a very articulate piece. And I use that word because
she spends the time making sure lines meet lines and colours
are not all over the map. And because of her
diligence and her focus, her work is exceptional. And it’s all centered around
just her experiences of being somebody who has low vision. NARRATOR: In addition
to the artistic hub, the H’art Centre provides
community coordinated arts programs for
seniors including those living with disabilities. It’s called HAAP, the H’art
Accessible Arts Program. Several times a week, trained
artists and volunteers travel to long-term care
residences across Kingston. KATHERINE PORTER:
The HAAP program has become very important
and almost self-sustaining after three years. Volunteer committees within
each of the long term care– and these are publicly funded– are now pitching in
to cover the costs. And the artists– the
professional artists have worked here first
before they move over into that environment. And then when
they’re over there, they’re actually
trained by the staff and by the administration on
how to work with that aging population that, again, has
a whole pile of other things that we have to consider. The artists walk into a room
and they are sensitive and are assured that they
can manage to deliver their program because we’ve
already trained the artists or hired– not the artists,
but the assistants. When the dance class
for Parkinson’s or when the sit and dance class,
or the storytelling happens, the volunteers are
also coached on how to take cues from the
professional artist so that the opportunity for
the experience is shared and more enhanced. MAN: Stella, don’t forget
the purchase orders. NARRATOR: Back at
the H’art Centre, the rehearsals for the
musical are winding down. And the time to opening
night draws near. KATHRYN MACKAY: Over the years,
I’ve helped them develop shows. And what it’s eventually
led to is I’ve seen this– some members of this population
have incredible talents. And I think they could
be pushed further. And they could work on a
real professional level. So what I’ve done is I’ve
started my own company with David Archibald and
Melissa Mahady Wilton called Peerless Productions
which is focused on promoting and producing
professional productions featuring artists with
disabilities and mixed abilities. There’s a rigour. And there is a way of looking at
the world that’s really unique that hasn’t been seen so far. And there’s a commitment. And there’s also just a
bravery for that I’ve seen and a total
unselfconsciousness in terms of wanting to talk to
people and tell a story. And I think it makes for a
really interesting theatre. GROUP: (Singing) We
are the pizza makers. Our pizza’s the
best in the world. Mwah! NARRATOR: Despite the
play’s serious message, the actors remind us
there’s a focus on fun and a premium on playfulness. DAVID ARCHIBALD:
We’re entertaining. And there’s a serious
message as well. But there are full-on
choreographed dance numbers as well as the songs
that you saw today. So there is a lot going on. And they will be joined
by professional musicians. So there’s players from
H’art Centre in the orchestra and they will be joined by– KATHRYN MACKAY: Professional
musicians in the community– the artists that come in to
work with the folks and end up learning from them an
amazing amount about new ways of thinking and thinking
outside the box– new ways of thinking
and learning. So there’s a huge
connection and attraction from people in the community to
come in and offer their talents and learn from the
participants as well. ANNOUNCER: Our Community
will return after the break. [MUSIC PLAYING] ANNOUNCER: We now
return to Our Community. NARRATOR: The payoff for all
the hard work and rehearsals is at hand. Three performances at
the Isabelle Bader Centre for the Performing Arts– so very appropriate, as the
venue represents the epitome of accessibility and inclusion. For Karen Olivier, artist and
member of the H’art Centre, the excitement is
difficult to contain. KAREN OLIVIER: I feel
excellent because I can’t wait for the show. PATRICIA BOVEY:
It’s a great honour. And of all the
awards I’ve received, having been given this
this afternoon, made by H’art participants– I’m Patricia Bovey, independent
senator from Manitoba. The H’art Centre
here in Kingston is a pioneer in
Canada, I believe, for the way they
have worked with, celebrated, encouraged the
independent artistic thought of our adult population who have
difficulties and challenges. GROUP: (Singing)
Stella, do this. Stella, do that. No time to sit. There’s no time to chat. Be on time, sweep the
floor, get the cheese! DAVID ARCHIBALD: One of
the nice things about H’art is there is an
incredible continuity. It’s such a great
place that people– once they become
students here, often stay students for
a very long time. So you really do get
to see the progression. MAN: Camilla, you
remember Stella? From the restaurant? WOMAN: This is your apartment? I thought you were supposed
to work with professionals! KATHRYN MACKAY: In one
word– extraordinary. Look at what they
are capable of. Look at the volume of
the lines that they’ve had to learn and memorize. And they are
delivering the goods. And with only a few
supportive prompts and cues around what to
do, what props to get, how to move on stage,
et cetera, et cetera. And the joy, you can see– I mean, they know– OK, I don’t know my line. They say line. You know, they’re very– they’ve learned how to be actors
and in a professional way. And they understand the
repetition of the scenes over and over again– what the role and the
characters are all about. They get inside them
in a way that they had no concept of 20 years ago. And the joy and the self-esteem
about what they are capable of. GROUP: (Singing) Don’t need
your ears to hear music. Don’t need your
voice to sing a song. KATHERINE PORTER: You
know if I had one wish, I’d like all municipal cities
to fund the organizations that excel in one particular area. And whether it’s
Immigration Services that are doing cultural days
or H’art Centre doing work for people with
disabilities, I just think that there’s
just too many levels and cumbersome
applications to fill. I think if you’re doing a
job and you’re doing it well, I think municipalities
should start to consider subcontracting
versus looking at people fighting or debating for funds
because it’s just killing the energy that’s out there. There’s a lot of
healthy organizations, community engagers
that are able to bring in large numbers of
people closer to the arts, especially with our
Deaf Spirit Theatre. We had a blind choir. I mean, those initiatives
could carry on much further if we didn’t
have to keep writing grants for them. The impact of H’art in
the city of Kingston has been very good and healthy. And it keeps on growing. It is partnering up with many
different other organizations– community engagers, I
guess you could call them– through Immigration
Services or art schools that are interested in our
ways of training artists to work with this population,
to long term care homes where we have placements of
professionally trained artists who want to
work in inclusive– or we call it the
inclusive arts. It’s called HAAP, H’art’s
Accessible Arts Program, where the artists are now able
to bring in somebody who’s in a publicly funded retirement
home into an activity because they’re
aware of the needs to accommodate and support
that individual that might be deaf or blind or
have an acquired brain injury. So everybody is included
not just the elderly who might be there just
to grow old, but those who have disabilities. KATHRYN MACKAY: I have
been connected with H’art because Katherine Porter
and I are kindred spirits around showcasing the abilities
of the special population. And so my big message is I
want everyone in the community to be amazed by what
the capabilities are, what the abilities are, and not
focusing on the disabilities. PATRICIA BOVEY: I take my hat
off to them for their vision, and their persistence
in realizing that vision, and
their compassion for the special needs
community and their families. And the sooner we as a
society can understand that need and that depth,
the richer as a community we’re going to be. KATHERINE PORTER: In
the last 20 years, I’d say we’ve done millions
of audiences and millions of people and not directly– through our websites, and
social media, and word of mouth, and the university students
that our students attend classes or participate in,
or the students that came away
from a performance that are going to be our doctors
of tomorrow or our educators. GROUP: (Singing) Way
oh, way oh, no one can dream your dreams for you. Way oh, way oh, you can do it. NARRATOR: The play is a hit. The hard work has paid off. The performers are enjoying
the audience’s outpouring of appreciation. At the reception afterwards,
the delicious piece of anniversary cake
for all to enjoy is almost as sweet as
the aura of the evening and the spirit of David
Archibald’s musical finale. GROUP: (Singing) What
can we do about Stella? DAVID ARCHIBALD: Being so
inclusive, so creative, in so many different disciplines
and the fact that it really does feel like family here. You come in here and there
is real joy and love. It’s a terrific place. GROUP: (Singing) What
can we do about Stella? What do we do? [APPLAUSE] DAVID ARCHIBALD:
I think the H’art Centre deserves all the
support it can get and more. It’s a unique facility
in this area for sure and perhaps in the country. KAREN OLIVIER: I
love everything. I’m very happy and about
Kathy works so hard with us doing all the orchestra. KATHRYN MACKAY:
It’s a community. And it reminds us that there
are so many stories out there that we don’t hear. And we think, oh you
know, I go to the Theatre. I read books. I go to films, whatever. But they’re, to
a certain extent, always presented
in a similar way. And they’re from the
same sort of population. And so when you hear
the stories that are being told through H’art,
then what I’m aware of is, wow, these stories
wouldn’t have been heard if it wasn’t for
Katherine Porter starting H’art. And what other stories
are there out there that we’re missing out on? And wouldn’t it be wonderful
to be able to access them? So let’s keep trying to hear. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: Writer, producer
David Battistelli. Camera operators Willi
Puerstl, Michael Suntinger. Editors Willi Puerstl,
Maryam Bakhtiar. Integrated described video
specialist Ron Rickford. Narrator Jim Van Horne. Original music David Archibald,
Spirit of the Inland Sea. Special thanks H’art Board of
Directors, Kingston Symphony Orchestra, Isabel Bader Centre
for the Performing Arts, Dan School of Drama and Music. Senator Patricia Bovey. Production supervisor
Janice Sivitilli. Director, production Cara Nye. Director, programming
Brian Perdue. Vice president, programming
and production John Melville. President and CEO
David Errington. Copyright 2018, Accessible
Media, Incorporated.

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