Upstream Arts was founded in 2006 by Julie and Matt Guidry, parents of a child with disabilities who witnessed first-hand the positive impact of the arts on their son, Caleb. Matt recalls the moment it all started:
“I can still remember the moment I first recognized the personal empowerment that creativity in expression can offer. It was in a dance studio where I was working with a company of dancers. My 5-year-old son, Caleb, who had just learned to walk and who doesn’t use words to communicate, watched us intently while we expressed and communicated without words, through the language of movement. Caleb circled the room slowly, watching us from different angles and different perspectives. He then approached the mirror and began to mimic our movements. We responded with more movement, and soon it became a back and forth exchange. I move, you move. I express an idea, you respond. Caleb recognized that inherent in our movements were the same kind of ideas, thoughts, and emotions as any language.
That small moment of a simple exchange of gestures was a revelation. Suddenly there was a path for discovery, as new channels of communication opened for him – and for me.”
As an adult Caleb continues to socialize and interact with the people around him using the patterns and rhythms of movement, of dance. It’s how he converses, engages in small talk, and how he understands people in his social circles.
Caleb’s language may be an abstract one, but if you listen closely it isn’t hard to understand.
Julie and I created Upstream Arts because we recognized that at the core of human engagement and communication is a give and take, an action and reaction, a listening and responding. We knew from personal experience that the arts were a perfect medium through which to practice these fundamental human skills.
For Caleb, it’s movement that moves him. For others it might be rhythm and music, or painting, or sound, or words. That’s why Upstream Arts uses a multidisciplinary curriculum, so that we have a kaleidoscope of opportunities for connection.
It’s about discovering together CREATIVE ways to have a back and forth exchange of ideas. Artful communication is our practice, and it’s one that we exercise with great intention towards building more inclusive communities.
- Matt Guidry, Co-Founder and Artistic Director