Scope: Using art to effect personal and social transformation
Globally, we operate as a Centre for the Theatre of the Oppressed; by mentoring diverse jokers ("directors") within the global Theatre of the Oppressed Network and by decolonizing Theatre of the Oppressed practices with our Indigenous programming partners.
Federally, we operate as a National Arts Support Organization for Canada's Deaf, Disability & Mad Arts domain, by advocating for Deaf/Disabled/Mad-identified artists whose artistic practices advance non-normativity (collective counter-culturalism).
Provincially, we operate as a Community Arts Support Organization, by cultivating conduits of collaboration between the arts and non-arts sectors, artists and non-arts.
Municipally, we operate as an Arts Service Organization for diverse artists who seek autonomy over inclusion.
We have a long history of collectively bringing about systemic equity, through artistic innovation. In fact, we exist for that sole purpose.
Niche: Fighting together, instead of each other
We continually seek to break down false divides between us and them, art and culture, high art and low art, professional and community, mainstream and marginal, and equity-seeking artists and our allied agents of change. Which is why we continually disrupt the still-hegemonic status quo – by co-cultivating individual, cultural and systemic spheres of social-change impact.
We thus fill a unique niche in the sector, by uniquely attending to the artistic, aesthetic, cultural and socio-political concerns of marginalized artists, whose practices are not upheld by Eurocentric notions of "artistic excellence". We create space for socially and culturally diverse artists to disrupt those colonial artistic traditions, the values they reflect and the aesthetics they've embedded in the collective Canadian psyche. Our productions therefore promote oppressed people's strengths and resistances, rather than our collective disenfranchisement or individually-experienced traumas.
All of our activities seek to strengthen marginalized artists' ability to frame our distinct contributions to the arts sector, claim our rightful spaces in the Canadian cultural canon, and take up the places we've earned in the core of artistic influence. Our diversified programming streams provide multiple opportunities for artists and non-artists to interact regularly, build relationships, devise new tools and share systemic-change insights.
Ethos: Intercultural Identities. Interlocking Inequities. Interdisciplinary Solidarity.
Unlike so many of our peers in the arts sector, we don't take up any singly-focused social justice issue, nor neoliberal Identity Politic, because "the lived experience of disablement" isn't an identity. It's an unsafe and disrespectful workplace condition; one imposed by the Greek aesthetics of artistic excellence: Idealized notions of human "perfection" that few in society can actually live up to (why should we?).
We consequently take up a collectivist approach to social justice that inclusion negates - by getting behind others, rather than elevating ourselves and by forging solidarity among those all of us on the margin, rather than competing to gain access to the centre of colonial power.
For such a small, marginalized company, we take up a hugely outsized role: To make the invisible visible – invisible people, practices and power dynamics.
Twenty years of decolonization collaboration with Indigenous Nations and advocates deeply informs the approach to collaboration we take. So we take up both relational and representational models of diversity, and attend to the social justice concerns of all protected classes of people (in keeping with Canadian human rights).