Long before I began my volunteer role with Creative Connections, my curiosity was sparked by the ever-changing storefront window and art-filled walls of the Prince William Street location. I was heartened to learn this was, in fact, the site of L’Arche Saint John’s day program and upon entering this space for the first time, it became clear the adults engaged in this hive of art, conversation and community were extraordinary individuals.

Our family enjoys dear friendships with several adults with intellectual disabilities and I recognize the importance of community relationships for individuals with intellectual disabilities whether this be achieved through arts and culture, education, sport, employment, service or other activities.

The opportunity within Creative Connections to both witness and participate in an art-centric program supporting adults with intellectual disabilities appeals to both my creative self and my interest in community service. Creative Connections now serves as a weekly highlight for me to join my Creative Connections friends in a joy-filled environment where all abilities are respected, celebrated and supported.

I have been impressed by the numerous Creative Connection outreach projects and collaborations in Saint John that are constant, entrepreneurial, and considerate. I have witnessed many community efforts such as the annual Art Show and Sale, hand-delivering custom holiday cards to neighbouring businesses, creating commissioned art for local restaurants, professional artists donating supplies and expertise, artists photographing uptown architecture and even neighbourhood dogs bringing their owners to the doorway or window of Creative Connections to say ‘hello’ to the artists. 

I value the friendships I have developed with Creative Connection artists, staff, and fellow volunteers but, it is my opinion, the reward is the artwork serving as the natural and unique outcome of adults with and without intellectual disabilities being present for moments of friendship, shared experience, and artistic challenge.

There have been many personal highlights for me at Creative Connections including being serenaded by a participant who replaces song lyrics with my name, being assigned by a participant to follow a specific hockey player for the season and experiencing the tradition of  ‘pass the candle’ tributes to honor artists, staff and volunteers. Artistic firsts for me include wool needle felting, making Ukrainian Easter Eggs and creating “Purrrrr-maid” cat/mermaid birthday party decorations.

I remain a Creative Connections volunteer because I continue to be inspired by the staff of both Creative Connections and L’Arche Saint John who exemplify the goodness of humanity where adults with intellectual disabilities are respected and also, where community and volunteer relationships are strong. Creative Connections Program Leader, Gray Gillies Mott, is unparalleled as she champions Creative Connections artists each day, even within the recent confines of Covid-19 restrictions.

 Heather Connolly
Volunteer, Creative Connections

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