“Everybody Can Dance the Colour Pink”: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Meanings and Experiences of Inclusive Arts Programs for Practitioners
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While the arts have gained a more prominent place in inclusive educational settings, inclusive arts programming in the context of community recreation requires further exploration. In my practice I have found that while inclusive arts opportunities are in high-demand, programs that run are typically infrequent and short-term, leaving many potential participants without a space to explore the arts. In this research I undertook a phenomenological inquiry into the experience of ten practitioners providing inclusive arts programs. Practitioners were drawn from Southwestern and Northwestern Ontario, and from a variety of arts-based fields. This exploration examined practitioners’ images and understandings of inclusion, disability, the arts, and their experiences with inclusive arts programs. The key essences which emerged as components of the inclusive arts experience for practitioners were: Inclusive Arts as an Enabling Space; Exploring Potential through Creative Expression; Flexibility, Adaptations, and Possibilities for Inclusion; Valuing Sameness and Difference in Ability and the Arts; Practitioners’ Experiences of Receiving Gifts and Feeling Strained; and, Embodying Inclusive Arts Values. Practitioners’ experiences within inclusive arts programs were impacted by the values associated with inclusion and the arts. Practitioners who embodied those values in their everyday life found inclusive arts programming to be highly rewarding and meaningful, despite sometimes significant financial and emotional challenges. The essences are also discussed in relation to three cross-cutting aspects of the practitioners’ experience: the medical and social construction of disability, art as inclusion, and the notion of embodiment.