In a classroom, Teaching Artist Tracey, a white woman with blond wavy hair, freezes in place along with two adult participants, one doing the splits and the other looking downwards. Everyone is masked.

June 30, 2021 marks the completion of 15 years of Upstream Arts working with and alongside people with disabilities of all ages to share creative experiences, to work towards understanding and inclusion, and to share space together. These experiences have mostly happened in 1 hour-long chunks, which seems like a small segment of time through which to construct community. But it’s the momentary flashes of connection, occurring consistently over time, that shape trust and empathy, isn’t it? It’s not one big, grand gesture that makes it happen. It’s the small moments that are the building blocks.

Like the moment we catch eyes and smile at each other.
Like the moment we breathe and drum in rhythm together.
Like the millions of points of light that make up the night sky, our collective Upstream Arts memories are made up of significant fragments of connection.

It’s incredible to think of all of the hours I’ve spent mirroring someone else’s voice, movements, and rhythms, as well as having others mirror my own, creating thousands of hours of intentional human synchronicity. Or all those hours repeatedly improvising through the same form and function, over and over, and each time finding new relationships that our voices, movements, rhythms, and words can make in a space together. Or the hundreds of paintings I’ve collaboratively created by taking turns with others, putting lines of color on canvas, reacting and responding to the line that came before – each time the lines coalescing into a meaningful abstraction of our interaction.

Over the last 15 years, teams of Upstream Arts Teaching Artists have facilitated more than 10,000 of those individual 1-hour chunks of time, and each one has taught us something about how to make and create authentic connections.

Each 1-hour experience is filled with consistent, persistent welcoming, and invitations to share and be heard.

Each 1-hour experience is an exploration of the line where the idiosyncrasies of communication can find overlap.

Each 1-hour experience is a mindful practice of letting go of assumptions and expectations of what should happen.

Each 1-hour experience is filled with choice, with curiosity – of telling stories yet unheard.

We invite you to continue to explore what it means to be in this community, and to continue to support us – in whatever way that is – in changing mindsets about ability and disability. We look forward to working with and alongside you for the next 15 years, sharing space, sharing stories, and keeping the conversation alive.

Thanks for being here.

Matt Guidry

To read more of Matt’s In Small Moments, click here.