Foundation’s clubhouse to serve as arts outlet for youths of all abilities
The community is invited to the grand opening of the Grace Fisher Foundation’s Inclusive Arts Clubhouse today from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The clubhouse is located at La Cumbre Plaza (Space F 118, next to the Museum of Sensory and Movement Experience) in Santa Barbara.
The site is designed to be a safe and welcoming space for children of all abilities to explore and express themselves through mediums such as art, music and dance. It’s also an outlet for social programming.
“This has been a dream since I started the foundation back in 2016,” Grace Fisher told the News-Press.
The Grace Fisher Foundation’s focus is on children and young adults living with a disability, but there are also programs in place for adults living with other conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.
Ms. Fisher has been a strong advocate for youths of varying abilities. She’s been in their shoes.
She had to learn new ways to express herself creatively after being diagnosed in 2014 with acute flaccid myelitis. The rare spinal condition left Ms. Fisher — at the time a Santa Barbara High School senior and an accomplished pianist, cellist and guitarist — paralyzed from the neck down. But she went on to compose music and paint pictures with special technology.
“I have been so grateful that throughout the years everyone has rallied behind me and wanted to support me any way that they could,” Ms. Fisher said.
“The dream that inspired it was when I got home from the hospital, I didn’t feel like there was a space dedicated towards inclusivity within the disabled community. I wanted a place where people could come together, connect and build friendship and community.
“I think a lot of the time with disabilities, it can be isolating not just for the person but also for the families and parents,” Ms. Fisher said.
She noted the new clubhouse isn’t just for participants. “It is for the whole family. There is already a parent’s yoga class in place. In the next few months, I want to develop other programs for families as well.”
The News-Press asked Ms. Fisher about her vision for the clubhouse.
“It is a place for our adaptive programs, which includes adaptive music, art and dance. It is also a place where it is a hub for people to come in and do drop-in art or have a place to hang out. It’s a magical feeling when you come to it.
“I don’t want it to be a place where people talk about problems. I want it to be a place where you forget about that and focus on the art in front of you and the friendships around you,” Ms. Fisher said.
“The word ‘disability’ sometimes evokes a wheelchair, hospital or words that aren’t necessarily positive,” she said. “I want it to be a place where when anyone comes in they see that although we may be a little different, these differences are still to be celebrated. We are capable of much more than the assumptions that are out there.”
“I want people with disabilities to feel like there is a place dedicated to them,” she said. “I want it to be an avenue for people to build relationships, friendships, and connections.
“It can be isolating and there are not many artistic opportunities, especially for kids. I hope with this space friendships will be able to be made and formed. I want it to be a place where kids can grow through the arts as they discover new things they might want to pursue in the future and offer opportunities that aren’t already out there.
“All programs are free, there are no barriers to keep anyone from attending. I want it to be a hub, not just a place for programs.”
Ms. Fisher added that the clubhouse welcomes everyone, not just those with disabilities. “It is a place where anyone who comes through the doors sees a celebration of and is a part of diversity.”
In addition to its regular programming, the inclusive arts clubhouse will host special events and workshops throughout the year, including performances, exhibitions, educational opportunities, and supportive services for families, local community groups, and caregivers.
The clubhouse’s goal is to create a “make you feel good” environment where all children can feel comfortable.
“It’s a pretty magical feeling,” Ms. Fisher said. “We have done a variety of adaptive programs around town. Having this space is exciting because we can plan whatever we want, because we have the space and there are no limitations with times or places. It has been fun building the schedule and designing the area.
“We are really lucky because the space already had a lot of stuff in place to evoke a magical feeling,” Ms. Fisher said. “Bella Vista Designs Inc,. brought a lot to the space to bring that welcoming feeling.
“When people come through the door, I want them to see how disability is nothing of which to be afraid.
“It’s a place where we are all calibrated for who we are.”