Music Therapy intern Hailey Davis presented a highly personal and creative exploration of disability through art and music at the Sensity Resource Centre.
The art installation was Hailey’s final project for her internship with Connecting in Rhythm, Sensity’s long-time music therapy partner founded by Amy Di Nino.
“I think it’s a really awesome exploration of what disability means, because it’s so different for every person,” Hailey said at the exhibition.
“But I wanted it to be really accessible and to have a way for anyone to say anything they wanted however they wanted to say it,” she added.
Each participant was given a large canvas, paint and some brushes. They were tasked with creating a piece of art surrounding the topic of what it means to be disabled. They also chose or wrote a piece of music, surrounding the same topic, either on their own, or with guidance from Hailey.
The art was on display in the multi-purpose room, with each piece accompanied by a QR code link to the music that could be played through a cell phone or tablet.
Allison Kimmerer, who is deafblind, and Tammy Sarasas, a veteran intervenor with Sensity, were two of the contributors.
“My Intervenor asked me how deafblindness makes me feel? I said happy, smart and many different feelings. My Intervenor asked me what colour makes me feel happy and I said all the colours, like a rainbow, so I painted a rainbow to show how I feel about deafblindness,” Allison says in her piece.
Allison glued cotton balls, foam stars and glitter to her canvas, making her art tactile as well as visual. In doing so, she also made it more accessible.
For her song, she chose a recording of a drum solo she created with Hailey.
Tammy created an eye-catching three-dimensional depiction of fireworks bursting from a pair of unshackled hands, accompanied by the Katy Perry tune Fireworks.
“The handcuffs represent an individual breaking free from society’s assumptions, beliefs, and norms. The fireworks bursting from the hands represents everything inside of the disabled individual that needs to come out. For example, their dreams, goals, wants, ideas, ambitions, and so much more. It’s all there and all they may need is a simple helping hand,” Tammy wrote in the explanation for her art.
Allison, of the first visitors to the exhibition, excitedly made a beeline for her project.
“I like the lights,” Alecia said as she looked at the art created by Tammy.
“You can touch them,” Hailey said.
“I really like Hailey’s I Was Never Broken,” said John Jr.
“Did these words mean a lot to you?” intervenor Cynthia asked.
“Oh yeah,” replied John Jr.
The project and the art she created proved to be cathartic for Hailey, who described herself as “neurodivergent, or disabled” and “the proud owner of an ADHD brain.”
“I took a book about ADHD and I took it apart,” Hailey said, explaining her art to Alecia.
“That’s cool,” Alecia said as she felt the layers of the collage made from the pages of the book.
Hailey explained, “The realization that I wasn’t broken for being disabled. I never was broken, and I never could be. My disability isn’t bad, and it isn’t good. It just is. When that lightbulb went off, a fog I didn’t even know that I had lifted. I realized that seeing my disability as something separate from myself, something bad, something to hate, wasn’t actually helpful. It was actually pretty harmful. My disability is a part of who I am, and I can’t separate it from myself. It makes me who I am, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I can’t be broken for being myself.”
Hailey wrote, played the instruments and sang her own song to accompany her art.
The project also produced a collaborative painting. A paint night was held at Sensity for people to paint all together on one large piece of canvas board. Later, the canvas board was also left in the hallway of Sensity, with art supplies and a note asking staff, intervenors, consumers and visitors to add their marks and thoughts about disability to the collaborative work.
“The results of this project were more thoughtful, astounding and beautiful than anyone could have ever imagined. Hearts, souls and minds were poured into each piece of art and music. It is my hope that these works make you feel something, make you think and encourage you to reflect on your own relationships with disability,” Hailey concluded.