Long Table Creative: Helping create a more inclusive and artistic Calgary

What do you get when you combine wizards, puppetry, and a passion for bringing diverse communities together to create art?

The answer is Long Table Creative, a collaborative project that seeks to build a positive community for Calgary artists. Together, artists with disabilities, writing mentors and other volunteers are working together to create a puppet play—and this year’s theme is wizards!

Long Table Creative is a partnership between Loft 112 and Prospect Human Services, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on developing inclusive programming for marginalized communities. We spoke to Stephanie Damus, art program facilitator with the disability services program at Prospect Human Services.

Tell us more about Long Table Creative.

Long Table Creative started in January 2015 as a group of individuals who met on a weekly basis to learn about writing. My clients are adults with developmental disabilities, and they work alongside members of Calgary’s writing and arts community on cool stories.

Tell us about the stories—how are they presented?

Last year we published a book of collaborative short stories based on plush monsters. Each writer worked closely with a local writing mentor in their development of short stories and poems. Once this was complete, they worked with artist mentors to create illustrations that complemented their written work.

This year’s theme is wizards! We are collectively writing one play, and are developing puppets that we will perform with.

What is the creative process like?

Working together on one script involves a lot of discussion. It’s really exciting to see all the mentors and artists participate in these discussions and have their ideas implemented into the script.

Many participants have expressed how interesting, fun, and challenging it is to work on one script and how awesome it will be to see the finished product.

What is the goal of the group?

Our goal is to empower our community, build capacity for inclusion and build employment skills, starting with projects that bring participants together sharing a common interest of writing.

What are some of your favourite moments from Long Table Creative?

My favourite moments have been when I have observed individuals push their boundaries and work beyond their usual comfort zones. Watching someone come out of his or her shell and work at his or her full potential, feel involved, and confident reinforces the importance of creative collaboration.

What are the successes you're proud of?

In the community we have seen lots of support from those interested in volunteering, to other local agencies looking to participate and build a more inclusive and artistic Calgary.

How can someone join a project like this?

We love accepting new and interesting artists and writers to a seat at the Long Table! If people are looking for a unique collaborative experience with diverse communities, they should contact me at stephanie.damus@prospectnow.ca.

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