Non-profit charitable organization gives unique adults opportunities to create art – Okanagan


John Roberts can teach you a thing or two about painting.

Roberts joined the Cool Arts Society a year ago when he felt his creative itch building.

He credits his parents, who are also artists, for his unwavering sense of wonder in his creative process of building art pieces.

“I feel like I’ve made progress and just learning new things and just really getting inspired,” Roberts said. “Just really getting into art.”

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What started as a small workshop, once or twice a month in a garage, has blossomed to a full art-studio with paid staff.

Shimshon Obadia started working for Cool Arts Society a few years ago. He is the art educator and leads the classes.

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“We’ve been in the Okanagan for almost 20 years,” Obadia said. “We’re an open studio for artists with developmental disabilities, where we offer art classes as well professional development and support for artists who have different exceptionalities, different ways of thinking.”

The society offers a variety of classes, including animation, open studio time and adult programs.

“We’re not offering art therapy. We’re teaching art classes,” Obadia said. “These are real professional art classes for real practicing artists who just happen to operate in a different way in our world and may need slightly different adaptations.”

Cool Arts Society was created by Sara McDonald when she discovered the disability arts movement through an art show in Vancouver. The art show was hosted by The Society for Disability Arts and Culture over 15 years ago. Sara’s son, Jordan Lee, submitted an art piece and was accepted to show his work at the show in Vancouver. This inspired Sara to create the Cool Arts Society in Kelowna.

McDonald’s vision was to create an experience for local adults with developmental disabilities, but soon realized the society meant so much more. It gave individuals an avenue to create human connections with others while also exploring their own creative abilities.

“For me it’s not only doing art but being with people and being there for the people and seeing what they create and just really connecting with people,” Roberts said. “I love connecting with people.”

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