In May, we posted the exciting news that our Teaching Artist Jess Finney is participating in her second YWCA of Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon, raising funds for Upstream Arts in the process. The summer has flown by, and suddenly the event is upon us! Jess will be swimming, biking, running, and trying again this Sunday, August 18, at Lake Nokomis. Click here to get in the spirit with an amazing original song, written and recorded last year by fellow Teaching Artists Dylan Fresco and Anton Jones in support of Jess!

In the latest post on her training blog, Jess writes about assuming ability:

One of our tenets at Upstream Arts is “Assume Ability.” We go into each class assuming that everyone is able: whether it be dancing, painting, acting, writing poetry, or making music, all people are able to participate. The child who has limited mobility and uses a wheel chair – yes, he can dance. The adult who is non-verbal and keeps her head down – yes, she can sing a song. The students whose behaviors scream “leave me alone” – yes, they can paint and work together while doing so. But how are they going to know they can if we don’t act on the assumption that they can? This goes for life inside and outside of the classroom. What society assumes about people with disabilities affects them no matter how independently strong and confident they are.

She reflects on this concept in relationship to her own experience training for the triathlon:

I am a large person. Most people would not assume that I could do a triathlon by looking at me. They may even think I’m just starting on a fitness journey. I can’t tell you how many stares and awkward smiles I’ve gotten from strangers while exercising in public. My workout buddy and dear friend Kari and I have coined this incredibly frequent interaction the “Big Girl Running” look: when someone sees us doing something they assume we can’t do they’re either shocked, mortified, or feel like they have to comment in some way. […] I’m grateful to the people in my life who have assumed ability of me, be it physical fitness, artistic ability, leadership capacity, or anything else along the range of human expression.

Take a moment to read the full post – it’s a beautiful, eloquent reminder what assuming ability really means, and how vital a practice it is. “No matter what our quest or what our range of abilities,” Jess observes, “we all need people who assume that we can reach that unreachable star.”

If you’d like to help Jess reach her $3,000 fundraising goal, you can make a secure online donation here. Just $1,650 to go – any amount helps! If you can’t support monetarily, consider joining Upstream Arts in cheering for Jess at the finish line this Sunday morning. Contact us for details, or click here for information about the general event.