The success of an Upstream Arts class is rooted in three Teaching Artist practices:

  • Creating a welcoming and sensory friendly environment 
  • Instilling a strong sense of structure and routine 
  • Offering choice 

Each class starts with music filling the air and Teaching Artists greeting and welcoming everyone by name into the space with a mindful intention . Throughout class, and throughout the residency, there are consistent, persistent invitations for participants and staff to join in, give input, or to simply observe and take in the action. In every one of these moments of invitation, the choice of the individual is honored. We all share in the creative experience no matter how we choose to participate. 

Consistent, persistent invitations and welcoming. We believe it’s the glue that makes our relationship building so successful, even though we’re only with students one hour a week.

Every Upstream Arts class is structured the same way and facilitated in a semicircle of chairs. We always start with a quick fundamental practice, such as one of our Mirroring activities. From there we move into our Welcome, Guidelines, and Introductions followed by 2 or 3 main activities that explore a variety of art mediums.

When patterns are repeated it creates a feeling of safety, of comfort, of trust. When we know what to expect and understand the parameters it allows us to better focus on the learning at hand.

Every piece of Upstream Arts curriculum offers more than one way to participate, from actively joining a structured improvisation up front, to conducting/directing the action of others, to acting as audience and offering comments and observations. With the assistance of visuals and assistive communication devices, participants are constantly offered choice when participating. 

Are you feeling big or small? Sunny or cloudy?

Do you want to move curvy or crooked? 

Is that feeling blue or green?

Do you want to participate now, or in the next round? Alone or with someone?

Would you rather dance or paint that feeling?

Should I sing fast or slow?

Participation looks different for everyone, but through the power of choice our Teaching Artists use their creativity to discover a way for everyone to feel successful and included.

Read more about our proven approach:

Performers pose as part of a moving statues sequence in The Art of Me performance




Teaching Artists singing, signing, and playing guitar.