Connections Arts Centre empowers disability community during Dublin Inclusion and Integration Week

by Alison O'Hanlon
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connection arts centre TY programme

Connections Arts Centre, an award-winning social enterprise promoting inclusivity and equality for individuals with disabilities, showcased its ‘Creative TY Connections’ programme as part of Dublin City Council Inclusion and Integration Week 2023.

The 2023 Creative TY Connections is designed to assist the disability community acquire basic IT, money management, and life skills. The programme engaged participants from the disability community and transition year (TY) students from Loreto High School, Beaufort, working as peers to enhance their money management and personal development skills, aligning with CAC’s creative approach. The event culminated with a special graduation ceremony officiated by Minister Rabbitte.

A review conducted upon programme completion revealed a significant impact on the participants, promoting a sense of belonging, self-respect, and confidence. TY students also developed an appreciation for others, feelings of empowerment, and the ability to make a difference.

connection arts centre TY programme
Graduation pic Sophie Mark + Minister

Miriam Spollen, founder and CEO of Connections Arts Centre (CAC), expressed her gratitude, saying “We hope our event today will help shine a light on the work and programmes we deliver to break down barriers faced by individuals with disabilities daily.

Speaking at the event, Minister Rabbitte said ” Miriam Spollen, the driving force behind Connections Arts Centre, has created a space dedicated to inclusion, participation, and equality. Even since my first visit, I could see there was amazing work taking place and I refer to it frequently.

“Here, individuals with diverse abilities direct themselves to participate in programmes rooted in creativity and I think it’s a blueprint that could be replicated elsewhere. This Centre is breaking barriers, broadening its horizons, and fostering inclusion.”

CAC’s vision centres on empowering people with disabilities to overcome daily challenges that lead to exclusion and devaluation.

connection arts centre TY programme

Leveraging its three core pillars — Creativity, Community, and Change — CAC offers accessible arts, lifestyle, training, and mentoring programmes with a focus on enhancing creativity, connection, social, digital, and life skills while reducing loneliness and isolation, fostering social acceptance, and raising awareness of rights.

Miriam added “Since we set up in 2021, we’ve had the privilege of engaging with over 2,125 participants through our programmes. These programmes are not just about what we do but the transformation they bring to our community. We offer several weekly programmes at our Rathgar Centre in addition to our bespoke programmes to encourage inclusive participation in various arts and lifestyle activities, from art and drama to music and yoga.”

Artist Jennifer Humphries and mentor Christine Foley shared their personal experiences from the ‘Connecting Artists 2023’ programme. The Connecting Artists Programme is designed for visual artists with intellectual disabilities who wish to develop their creative practice. The 10-week online programme partners the artists with mentors and culminates in an exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. Based on the success of the programme to date, CAC will be running a 2024 Connecting Artists Programme and will be seeking participants soon.

CAC also unveiled details of its collaboration with Sogeti, a leading IT management consultancy, its innovation partner that is redesigning the website to reflect their commitment to inclusivity, accessibility, and the continued growth of their programmes and partnership with Sogeti.

In her closing remarks, Minister Rabbitte emphasised the importance of inclusive practices and collaboration in achieving equality and inclusion. “Connections Arts Centre is actively seeking sponsors and partners to join us in empowering the disability community through our Connecting Artists and TY programmes.

Pictured at the event this week was Creative TY Connections programme participant, Mark Tierney, from Knocklyon with students from Loreto High School, Beaufort, Rathfarnham Dublin.

Pictures Marc O’Sullivan

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