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Promoting the Arts in Brookline: Featuring Coolidge Corner Community Chorus and Gateway Arts

By Kristen Bosse

Most of us consider the arts to include the literary arts: fiction, creative nonfiction, essays and poetry; the performing arts, such as dance, theater and film; and the visual arts, which include painting, sculpture, mixed media and installation art. The truth is that no matter what form the art takes, it strikes a universal chord that suggests that we are not alone in our experience of joy, grief, or courage. The arts allows people from various backgrounds, various intelligence levels, to come together for a common interest. In short- art brings joy to the masses. Lets take a look at two organizations in Brookline that are doing their part in providing outlets for those interested in art.

Gateway Arts

Originally established in 1973, Gateway Arts is dedicated to providing individualized, arts-based services to adults with disabilities that will enable them to create meaningful lives and careers in art. Located in Brookline Village, Gateway serves over 100 talented artists in the Greater Boston area through its Arts Studio Programming, Store, and Gallery. It has the privilege of being one of twenty comprehensive art centers for individuals with disabilities worldwide.

The Main Studio at Gateway Arts is a studio art center for artistically talented adults with developmental and psychiatric disabilities. It consists of 7 professional studios including: Art making, Weaving, Pottery, Paper graphics, Decorative crafts, etc. The artist, with the guidance of a clinically trained supervisor, chooses their personal studio schedules and each studio session runs about 2-2.5 hours and consists of no more than 10 artists with some studio sessions providing one-on-one support. Each artist is engaged in an ongoing interactive process, where they choose their product line and develop their skills based on their interests and abilities. In essence, it provides the experience of maintaining a cooperative art studio, giving artists access to high quality art materials, and support to work side by side with other artists.

Studio A takes things a bit further, giving individuals the opportunity to pursue professional art careers within a supportive community of dedicated artists, and tends to focus on those with psychiatric disabilities, spectrum disorders and head injuries. The artists of Studio A can choose to participate in something called the Artist Training Program, where they actually create pieces of artwork that will be displayed in a gallery and sold! As a product of these seminars, the artists complete the program with a portfolio in both digital and physical format, business cards, and a number of art materials so they can continue producing artwork on their own. Artists spend 6 hours per week in the studio creating artwork. They spend another 3 hours weekly in seminars that address topics such as creating an artist statement, bio and resume, marketing, pricing of work and business fundamentals.

Both of these studios together really give the members with disabilities a safe space to practice their gift and bask in the joy of creating art. Hannah Hoffman, Development and Marketing Manager, elaborated on the program's impact on her artists.
"It also takes individuals out of isolation, giving them an artistic voice as well as chipping away at the stigma and discrimination that is commonly and unfairly associated with disability. Creating art channels an outlet for individuals to be heard and recognized for their talent. Art is therapeutic by nature; however, Gateway does not provide therapy services, but focuses on art as a profession. Professional art is expressive, partakes of the international art world and is by nature frequently therapeutic for individuals with or without disabilities."

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Coolidge Corner Community Chorus

For years now, the Coolidge Corner Community Chorus has been an integral part of the Brookline Arts Community. Led by Lee Colby Wilson, a renowoned concert pianist and music educator, it is distinguished by being a non-audition style chorus, including any person who wishes to engage in song! Most non-auditioned choruses restrict themselves to "lighter" music or perhaps a movement or two from a major work. We have tackled challenging works such as Durufle's Requieum or Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna.

In fact, even the Chamber Chorus, "Collettivo", does not require auditions. It is open to anyone in the chorus and in this way is somewhat self-selecting, requiring those who participate to experience only 2-4 voices on a part. The chorus operates on the fact that music is a human experience- whether you are highly gifted or not. All should be allowed to participate in something they love!

Crispin Weinberg, President of the Chorus, commented on why they chose to not include auditions in the registration process.
"We are non-auditioned because our goal is to open to anyone who would like to sing. Thus, we have members who don't read music and learn by ear as well as quite experienced singers. It takes us longer to bring a work to performance level than an auditioned group, but we certainly get there. We are welcoming to all. I think it is important to have the opportunity for amateurs to have the chance to perform great works. After all, the root of amateur is amare (to love) and we are singing this music because we love it."

The Brookline community has been extremely supportive when it comes to sustaining the life of the chorus and helping to live out its mission. They have received several grants from two generous organizations, the Brookline Commission for the Arts and the Brookline Community Foundation. The town has even gone as far as allowing them to rehearse in public buildings, for many years at Edward Devotion School and more recently at the Brookline Senior Center. In turn, they have given a donation to a program offering private music lessons to kids with emotional or behavioral special needs at Devotion or more recently to the Brookline Senior Center for their musical programs for seniors.

The staff members of the CCC Chorus are true promoters of the arts, giving each resident an equal opportunity for participation. As discussed earlier, true art does not discriminate on background, skills, income levels- it speaks to those who want to hear it. If you want to sing, you're always welcome!

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