The mission of Upstream Arts is to enhance the lives of adults and youth with disabilities by fostering creative communication and social independence through the power of arts education.
We believe that the arts are uniquely suited to act as a tool to teach and learn the complicated nuances of social interaction and communication; and that artistic experiences nurture growth, leading to individuals who are better able to live, work and make positive contributions to our society.
Upstream Arts was founded in 2006 by parents that witnessed first-hand the positive impact of the arts education on their son, Caleb. Caleb, who is non-verbal, was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which affects his physical and cognitive development. Caleb’s father, a professional theatre artist and educator in the Twin Cities, exposed Caleb to theatre and dance at a young age. Caleb, who previously had few tools to communicate, began to use the physical movements, body language, and facial expressions he learned through the arts to communicate and engage with those around him. Out of this spirit and determination, Upstream Arts was born.
Since then, Upstream Arts has grown exponentially, drawing on research and best practices to provide a unique, arts-based approach to addressing social deficits common in individuals with a variety of disabilities. We carry out programs in schools, with Transition programs, and with prominent disability service providers around the metro area. As the only local arts organization to deliberately impact social and communication skills development, we have an in-depth relationship with Minneapolis Public Schools Special Education Department and have aligned both our curriculum and evaluation tool with their standards and assessment tools. We also present at conferences and carry out trainings for school staff and local professionals on arts-based programming and teaching methods that address individuals with disabilities. Over the last three years, we have provided over 5,984 contact hours to over 1,400 individuals with disabilities and have trained 1,013 teachers and industry professionals.
“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.’” Vincent van Gogh