Winnipeg Arts Council

Wingspan Winnipeg Showcase

Wingspan Dis/Ability Arts, Culture & Public Pedagogy is Canada’s first accessible and inclusive Disability and Deaf Artist Residency Program in Canada’s schools and is a UBC VPRI Excellence Cluster. In 2024, under the leadership of Dr. Leslie G. Roman, UBC Professor of Educational Studies and visionary for the Wingspan program, in collaboration with an interdisciplinary cluster of colleagues, asks: how can the aims of Canada’s Accessibility Act take center stage in the hearts and minds of students, teachers, and staff in partner K-12 schools? Like starlings in a murmuration, Wingspan has flown into the schools of three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. Wingspan, this year, has gone national.

“Creating inclusion begins with educating students, teachers, and educational leaders that disabilities or Deafness are not something to fear or feel shame about. The more we learn, the more we appreciate what artists with disabilities and Deafness bring to the table of our schools (K-12) and our entire educational system”, says Prof. Roman, a leading scholar of disability studies and sociology of education. Artists have been placed in K-12 schools or as touring artists who perform in art galleries, museums, or community centers.

Artists and teachers have been co-teaching in five schools and four districts nationwide. School districts include The Manitoba Wing, the Winnipeg School Division’s Greenway Elementary, and Churchill High School; the BC Wing-the Vancouver School Board’s Elsie Roy Elementary and the Delta School District’s Seaquam Secondary; Ontario Wing-the Toronto School District Board; the Oasis Secondary Alternative School Sites of Art and Social Change and the Skateboard Factory.

The program began in February with a retreat at Loon Lake Lodge in Maple Ridge, BC, to co-train the teachers, artists, and staff. Students in schools have had the opportunity to have sustained learning experiences with artists with disabilities or Deafness in residencies of up to 8 weeks. They have also been treated to experiences of touring artists and taken on field trips to art galleries to exhibit their art or hear the performances of Wingspan artists or perform alongside them. Celebrations of learning or showcases feature not only the work of the Wingspan artists but, most importantly, what the students have learned from the role model artists in their classrooms in each Wing province.

In Winnipeg, under the guidance of Jenel Shaw, Wingspan Coordinator and Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba Exec. Director students have had a rich learning opportunity to work first-hand with nationally and internationally regarded Dis/Deaf artists in Manitoba, from renowned jazz pianist and saxophonist Connor Derraugh to Métis artist Candace Lipischak, a multidisciplinary artist who hand-carves antler jewelry. They are joined by Wingspan touring artist Natalie Sluis, who turns her hearing loss into the language of contemporary performance dance. Winnipeg School students will showcase the art they created in the schools on June 3rd from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm at the Winnipeg Wingspan Showcase at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.