In November 1993, Lenore Vosberg, a social worker at the West Montreal Readapation Centre (WMRC), proposed the idea of staging a play with the client group with whom she worked — adults with developmental disabilities — to Dr. Stephen Snow, then a professor in Concordia University’s Department of Theatre.
This client group participated with students in Dr. Snow’s course, Drama for Special Populations, providing an acting foundation for the clients and hands-on experience for Dr. Snow’s students. Students used developmental drama techniques to work with the client group, resulting in observable changes in self-confidence and positive behaviour.
This remarkable outcome lead to the collaboration with faculty member Miranda D’Amico in Concordia’s Department of Education, who was invited to design a research and documentation process to study observable behaviour changes.
These partnerships lead to the production of an original musical, Oh! That Aladdin, that was performed in 1994 and 1995 with resounding success. To continue this innovative work, the Centre for the Arts in Human Development was established in 1996 with the support of the Seagram Grant for Academic Innovation.
Impact of the Centre
Now in its twenty-first year, the Centre for the Arts in Human Development has had a significant impact on its participants, families, professionals and the community. The Centre’s work was recognized in 2006 by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), receiving the first annual award for Social Inclusion-Category Research and Innovation.
The Centre's pioneering research has made significant contributions to the fields of psychology, disability and education, as well as to the Creative Arts Therapies. Presentations of various research projects have been made by professionals and graduate students at international conferences and have attracted great interest and requests for affiliation from students and professionals from around the world.
Graduate students have been provided a foundation for future professional practice, with an advanced understanding of the characteristics and therapeutic needs of persons with developmental disabilities. In addition, volunteers and students from a variety of educational backgrounds have acquired knowledge and attitudes promoting destigmatization and social inclusion.
Thousands of people, including professionals, have been touched by the inspiring demonstrations of creativity and ability conveyed through the Centre’s Public Outreach Program as well as through media exposure on television and in print. Families and friends have often noted positive behaviour changes in participants after attending the Centre’s three-year program. Perhaps most importantly of all, our participants have reaped the benefits of the Centre’s work, increasing their self-esteem, self-image and overall quality of life.