Express Yourself

"Art is expansive by nature, so are people." - Dean Bauche

Every winter L’Arche Comox Valley holds a series of art workshops called The Art of Belonging. The workshops are open to the public to register on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s an opportunity for people with and without intellectual disabilities to pair up, try new things, and regardless of their level of ability, leave with a rich experience and interesting results.

Participants explore different media and create their own unique pieces of art. The workshop culminates in a show where the artists share their experiences and their work. Each year’s project is different; past projects include watercolour, photography, painting, print making and even fused glass. It’s something that many people look forward to and return to year after year.

Expanding Through Art

At the heart of the workshop is Saskatchewan-born artist Dean Bauche. Dean is a professional artist that’s been expressing himself through his art his whole life, working as a full-time artist, teacher and cultural consultant. Dean knew about L’Arche as a global organization through his work and friends, and back in 2012 Dean and his wife made their first 19-hour drive from Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan to the Comox Valley.

“Helping people to discover themselves and expand through art is remarkable,” says Dean. “People get excited about creation and often forget about the outcome. I love it when that happens, and you can see it on their faces and in their art.”

Through this program and others, L’Arche enables the spirit of community and shows the beauty that exists in every person with and without disabilities. Working together and learning from each other has an important and transformative effect, helping each one of us to become more fully human. 

Who am I and how can I express that? 

“I see art as a way of creating meaning, joy, and growth,” says Dean. “But before you can do that, you must feel safe. Safety is the container where people can be themselves, work, discover, and blossom. That’s crucial in the Art of Belonging workshops.

The name – Art of Belonging – creates the parameters for the program; it’s about belonging through art. The program is not trying to create artists but rather celebrate life through art, while exploring a variety of media. In this way, people can experience new things and see what speaks to them.

“It’s like a smorgasbord,” comments Dean, “I want participants to try a little bit of everything so they can enjoy creative diversity and discover what is meaningful to them.”


Art is first about the process, not the product

While the artwork that’s brought to life in the workshop is impressive and often sophisticated, Dean cautions that we should be careful about focusing on the outcome.


“It really is the process and not the product that matters,” says Dean. “Art is a form of expression. The program is intentionally designed to put people at ease, so they can be themselves and enjoy. By nature, many people are cautious; they don’t want to make a mistake, they worry whether their work is good enough or what others think. We work to move past that in the program and open up.”

There are so many ways to express oneself. Every artist I know has an alter ego – singer, writer, poet, dancer, carpenter, and the list goes on. The truth is that the creative nature within each of us wants to express itself; let it.”

To learn more about this program and other activities at L’Arche Comox Valley, subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check our activity guide.

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