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Earlier this month, we did something we’ve never done before. In partnership with Valley Friendship Club in Stillwater, we developed an original performance for the public! While Upstream Arts programs always include theatre training and activities, culminating presentations tend to be informal and open to a limited audience. This summer, however, we were excited to create a show on a stage with lights, sound, and a broad invitation to the public.

Supported in part by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts CouncilThe Art of Me: A Theatrical Experience premiered one night only, on August 1, at Stillwater Jr. High School for nearly 200 audience members. The performance consisted of vignettes that grew organically out of our arts-based curriculum for individuals with disabilities, designed to nurture social and communications skills. Using poetry, song, dance, improvisation, and projected images of original artwork, every scene was infused with the ideas, creativity, and personalities of the participants. The work caught the attention of multiple media outlets, including The Pioneer PressStillwater Gazette, and even the North Dakota-based Grand Forks Herald.

After the performance, numerous parents confessed to us their initial reservations and their subsequent amazement at seeing their kids shine on stage. As one mother wrote to us: “I was skeptical earlier this summer as I signed my daughter up for ‘The Art of Me,’ your summer program with Valley Friendship Club. Will she even participate? How will she fare next to her friend who regularly engages in fantasy play and dress up? Is this the right thing? Last evening was the public performance of ‘The Art of Me,’ and my daughter blew me away! …as did every other participant on that stage! I watched your gifted Artists work with the group at dress rehearsalon Tuesday and I was still a little skeptical about the upcoming performance. Nothing to fear. I witnessed the power of your artists and the arts to draw every one of the participants out of their comfort zone. They rocked! It was powerful. I’m a believer now.”

Click the video above to watch The Art of Me, and visit us on Facebook to peruse rehearsal photos. Also stay tuned for a brand new Upstream Arts collaboration with Valley Friendship Club, ArtsReach St. Croix, and the Phipps Center for the Arts, coming up later this fall!