by Beverly Cramp, Galleries West Magazine
Republished with permission of the author

Gallery Gachet, which supports marginalized artists in Vancouver, helps Teresa Pocock, an artist with Down syndrome, launch her second book.

Teresa Pocock celebrates her exhibition and book launch at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver. (Photo by Billiam James)

Artist-run centre Gallery Gachet was filled recently with bright drawings and celebratory poems by Teresa Pocock, a stark contrast to the grubby and littered streets outside in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood, where many of the city’s homeless and drug-addicted citizens live.

Pocock likes primary colours and often incorporates text so exuberant it makes visitors smile. “I like the flavour of everything,” begins one of her poems. “Chocolate cake. Coke Zero. I love cranberry sauce and cranberry juice, and chicken pie.”

The four-day show [August 2-5, 2018], Pocock’s second at a space known for its work to encourage healing and empower marginalized artists, was set up to launch her second book, Totally Amazing: Free to Be Me. It’s an inspiring account of how she has fought to let her creativity blossom.

Pocock was born with Down syndrome. Her mother supported her in numerous ways, arranging for regular exercise and enrolling her in a private school that she attended for 12 years. Pocock, who lived with her parents in Ontario, flourished in this nourishing environment.

But after her mother died in 1999, her father took care of Pocock. But eventually, in 2013, when Pocock was 49, she was declared “incapable” of making her own decisions and placed briefly in a long-term care facility that houses elderly people.

“The nurses at the home told me Teresa cried every day and did almost nothing,” says her sister, Franke James, also an artist.

Teresa’s father, a retired lawyer, was in poor health, but managed to get her out of the care facility and took her to live with James. Within a year, James and her husband had moved to Vancouver with Pocock, hoping to build a better life.

Teresa Pocock poses with her sister, Franke James. (Photo by Billiam James)
Teresa Pocock poses with her sister, Franke James. (Photo by Billiam James)

As James writes in the introduction to Totally Amazing, British Columbia is better for Teresa “because it recognizes her legal right to make her own decisions.”

In Vancouver, Pocock began a regular practice of writing and making art. In addition to calling herself an artist and author, Pocock is a self-advocate. She’s not shy to speak up for herself and in 2016, she asked the Ontario government for an apology.

It was made in a statement to Global TV by Eric Hoskins, then the province’s health minister, but not directly to Pocock. So she sent a handwritten letter to the minister, asking him to write to her personally. Later that year, she received his written apology.

Teresa Pocock stands in front of the hand-written letter she sent to the Ontario government. (Photo by Billiam James)
Teresa Pocock stands in front of the hand-written letter she sent to the Ontario government. (Photo by Billiam James)

Pocock continues to draw and write every day at the dining room table. Once, when she was asked her to clear away her art supplies to make room for dinner, she joked: “But I’ll lose my job.”

Pocock is a participating artist at the Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, a free event that runs Aug. 10 to Aug. 12 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. The festival, organized by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, features art and performances by those who identify as outsiders for a host of reasons, including mental health issues and differences in physical abilities.

To see more of Pocock’s work, visit totallyamazing.ca. ■

Visitors check out Teresa Pocock’s art and writing at Gallery Gachet. (Photo by Melissa Newbery)
Visitors check out Teresa Pocock’s art and writing at Gallery Gachet. (Photo by Melissa Newbery)

Outsider Artist uses magic markers to highlight her human rights and need for social inclusion

Vancouver – “I am a self-advocate. And I speak up!” Artist Teresa Pocock uses her art and poetry to express her unique worldview— and to fight for her human rights. As a person with Down syndrome, Ms Pocock has faced discrimination and exclusion.

Almost five years ago, at age 49, she was stripped of her rights to self-determination. Against her wishes, Ms. Pocock’s liberty and freedom was traded for a single bed in an end-of-life nursing home. She did not want to be there. She had things to do, places to go, and people to meet.

Fortunately, with the help of her father and a sister, Ms Pocock won her freedom. She moved across the country to British Columbia to live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with her sister, Franke James. Together they launched a campaign for her human rights. Ms Pocock’s change.org petition garnered over 26,000 signatures. BC Civil Liberties wrote a letter expressing concern that the Ministry had violated Ms. Pocock’s rights, which are protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario law. This led to her winning an apology from the Ontario Minister of Health. Ms Pocock’s hand-written letter to the Ontario government requesting the apology, is featured in her new book, Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me.

Ms Pocock’s vibrant artwork and poetry demonstrates her self-advocacy and reveals her inner fears and joys. She delights in her newfound freedom to choose where she lives, what she does, and even what she eats, “I love the flavour of everything.”

At the Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, Ms Pocock will be exhibiting her artworks and selling her new book, Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me. The book and artwork were produced with support from a DTES Small Arts Grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

DETAILS

Dates and Locations
Friday August 10 (11am to 9pm)
Saturday August 11 (10am to 4pm)
Sunday, August 12 (10am to 4pm)

Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre
181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2W3

Tickets
Free

BIOGRAPHIES

Teresa Pocock is an outsider artist, poet, musician and self-advocate with Down syndrome. Her recent solo exhibition at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver included 14 large artworks, poetry and video. She is the author of two books:  “Totally Amazing: Free to Be Me” (2018) and “Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside” (2016). Ms. Pocock lives in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival (VOAF) offers visual and performing artists facing social exclusion and other barriers opportunities for exhibition and sales, performance and participation, connection and learning. VOAF is organized and presented by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. The 3-day free festival takes place at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre from August 10-12, 2018, and includes individual artists as well as organizational partners, workshops for artists and the public, and hundreds of artworks on display and for sale, alongside live art and other performance forms.

Media contact: Franke James
Email: franke.james@gmail.com

Web: http://totallyamazing.ca
http://www.cacv.ca/programs/vancouver-outsider-arts-festival/
Twitter: @TeresaPocock

BUY THE BOOK ON AMAZON:


Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me

Totally Amazing

Buy the book on Amazon: Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me

Totally Amazing: ‘Free To Be Me’

Teresa Pocock’s unique worldview is expressed through her art. The way she sees the world, the people she meets, and her feelings about life are all told through her art, poetry and music.

Teresa’s exhibition at Gallery Gachet showcases her art, poetry and examples of her self-advocacy as a person with Down syndrome. From writing to government officials for an apology on her wrongful placement in an Ontario nursing home in 2013 – to asserting her rights to more of what she loves in life, like more mayonnaise and the freedom to be herself in Vancouver, B.C. (Teresa’s Totally Amazing book will be available for purchase and also available on Amazon.)

Book Launch & Art Show: “Totally Amazing: ‘Free To Be Me’” by Teresa Pocock

Date/Time: August 2nd from 6pm to 8pm

Location: Gallery Gachet, 9 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC

Who made this Totally Amazing event possible?

Teresa is honoured to have won her second DTES Small Arts grant to create the illustrated book, “Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me”. The DTES Small Arts Grants Program was created by The Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with the Carnegie Community Centre, to help Downtown Eastside artists advance their careers by supporting and showcasing their work.

Totally Amazing Preview:

ABOUT TERESA POCOCK

Teresa Pocock is an outsider artist, poet, musician and self-advocate with Down syndrome. Teresa’s unique worldview is expressed through her art. The way she sees the world, the people she meets, and her feelings about life are all documented through her art, poetry and music.

Teresa has created and published two illustrated books with support from the Vancouver Foundation. Her first book, “Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside” was published in 2016. “Totally Amazing: Free to Be Me”, her second book, was published in August 2018, and will be launched at her solo art exhibition at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In 2016, Teresa won her first DTES Small Arts Grant from the Vancouver Foundation which enabled her to produce her “Pretty Amazing” book and art show. Cheryl Chan at The Vancouver Sun wrote about Teresa, Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside. Chan’s story captured the head-scratching incongruity of Teresa’s situation. How could someone who was ‘incapable’, ‘bloom’ as an artist in Vancouver? Of course, the truth is that Teresa was never incapable (and she is gifted). However what happened to Teresa is common in our “Ableist” society which discriminates against people with disabilities in the name of “care”. Teresa’s petition on Change.org “Human rights should never be disabled” was launched on March 21, 2014. In September 2016, Teresa wrote to the Ontario Minister of Health, Dr Eric Hoskins, asking for a letter of apology. “I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable.” In November 2016, Minister Hoskins responded, “Dear Ms. Pocock, Thank you for writing to me… I would like to apologize to you”. Teresa was delighted to receive the apology and closed her petition with over 26,000  signatures!

Teresa’s future is bright and her art career is blossoming. She hopes to show her work across Canada and the United States in the years ahead.

Teresa’s new book, “Totally Amazing: Free to Be Me” will be available for purchase at Gallery Gachet (and at Amazon).

BOOK LAUNCH & ART EVENT IN VANCOUVER, B.C. – 6pm to 8pm on Thursday, August 2nd to celebrate the launch of Teresa Pocock’s second art and poetry book:

Buy the book on Amazon: Totally Amazing: Free To Be Me

mmcoverprettyamazing_article__1642c

By Franke James for Megaphone Magazine
Photo of Teresa Pocock by Zack Embree

“Freedom” describes Teresa Pocock’s awakening as an artist and poet in the Downtown Eastside. When she draws, she is free. There is no filter. She doesn’t second guess herself or say her drawing isn’t “good enough”. She is confident. She lets whatever is on her mind come out, freely.

But the freedom to make her own decisions and choices—where she lives, what she does, and how she expresses herself—is new to her. Teresa has Down syndrome. It’s been very difficult for her to assert her rights and be her own person. For much of her life, she’s been wrapped in a cocoon, where other people made decisions for her. This was made evident in 2013, when Teresa was forced into a nursing home in Ontario at age 49.

Against her wishes, Teresa was placed in a long-term care home that specialized in dementia and palliative care. It was absolutely the wrong place for her. When Teresa said she didn’t want to live there, no one listened. Fortunately, Teresa’s father, a retired lawyer, was able to get her released after four days. The next day, Teresa came to live with me and my husband. Three months later, we moved from Ontario to British Columbia and eventually settled in Gastown in the Downtown Eastside.

Finding her voice
Settling in the Downtown Eastside turned out to be a great stroke of luck for Teresa and her budding career as an artist. She applied for a DTES Small Arts Grant to create an illustrated book about her new neighbourhood. The grant was approved in February, and Teresa got to work.

Over the next four months, Teresa created about 100 illustrations in large spiral-bound sketchbooks using vibrant hues of magic markers. She also wrote 10 poems for the book. My husband and I helped Teresa design and self-publish her book.

Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is a collection of Teresa’s art and poetry. In her opening poem, I Am Alive, she shares her upbeat philosophy on life: “Be nice to everyone.” And she says she feels “redeemed. Okay, I am reborn. In Gastown.”

Her natural ability to express herself through art is important. In her art and poetry, she can freely express her worries and her joys. Her poems reflect the dialogues she has with herself. Often, she takes on the role of her own parent, saying, “Please be nice to my daughter.” And she encourages herself: “You’re not afraid of those monsters. You have the power of attorney.” Her power of attorney document helped win her release from the nursing home. To this day, Teresa carries the updated document with her.

In her poem “The Schedule,” Teresa shows how she organizes her day. She carefully plans the times for her breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. She includes these detailed times in her drawings and often scratches the numbers out as the hours pass. We hear her sense of humour and wordplay when she writes, “We are quite a pair. Eat your pears at Nesters. I love Perrier.” When she reads the poem aloud she laughs at her own cleverness.

The unexpected
Teresa is enjoying her new identity as an artist and author. This past summer, she launched her book and art show at Gallery Gachet. And then something amazing happened. For almost three years now, Teresa has been asking the Ontario government to apologize. Her Change.org petition—Human Rights Should Never Be Disabled— garnered more than 26,000 signatures. Last month, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and seven other signatories sent a letter to the Ontario government stating, “We are gravely concerned that the government, through its actions, appears to condone the forced placement and mistreatment of developmentally disabled adults.”

The letter caught the attention of Christina Stevens at Global News, who did a story on Teresa. On July 22, Minister Eric Hoskins apologized to Teresa on Global News for “placing” her in a “seniors’ residence,” saying it was not appropriate. The apology was a welcome surprise, but the Global News story exposed the fact that Teresa is just one of thousands who have been deprived of their liberty, as 2,900-plus people in that province are living in such facilities.

hoskins_globalapology

Teresa’s pretty amazing journey that brought her to the Downtown Eastside is still unfolding. She has just turned 52. She is now free to make her own decisions. Free to colour outside the lines. And free to make a difference for all people with disabilities simply by being who she is: a self-advocate and artist in the Downtown Eastside.

I AM ALIVE

Hello.
Be nice to everyone.
Look, I am alive.
You have to be nice.
I am doing fine.
Thank goodness.
I have to be nice to them.
And to the others.
That’s a brilliant idea!
You’re thinking.
And I’m thinking too.
I think we need to make a list of the things we need.
Right. I’m alive. Nesters. Flying Pig. Prado.
We love it here.
Everybody loves me.
You guys are alright, I know.
You guys, I am born. I am alive.
Redeemed.
Okay, I am reborn.
In Gastown

"I Am Alive" by Teresa Pocock on Vimeo.

Related Links:

“A Pretty Amazing Story”, Megaphone Magazine, September 2016

Global News: Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government

Global News: More than 2,900 Ontarians with developmental disabilities live in long-term care facilities

BC Civil Liberties letter to the Ontario Government: Teresa Pocock’s forced admission to an Ontario long-term care home violated her human rights

Where to buy Teresa Pocock’s book. Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is available on:

Pretty Amazing Cover Kindle

Book Description:
What does Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside look like through the eyes of an artist-an artist who also happens to have Down syndrome? The heart of Pretty Amazing is the unexpected story of Teresa Pocock finding herself as an artist and poet. Previously, Teresa’s artistic expression was discouraged and ridiculed. Her opening poem, I Am Alive, packs added punch when you know that her future was written off a few years ago when she lived in Ontario. Teresa was forced into an Ontario nursing home against her will. The health-care system had wrapped her in-as disability advocate Paul Young aptly describes it -“a cocoon of impossibility.” Against her wishes, Teresa’s liberty and freedom was traded for a single bed in an end-of-life nursing home. It was a violation of her human rights. She did not want to be there. Teresa had things to do, places to go, and people to meet! In the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Teresa has found her voice. It is a voice that talks about feeling “butterflies,” but still finds the courage to fly.

Pretty Amazing is available in Paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

About the Artist/Author

Pretty Amazing Cover KindleTeresa Pocock is an artist and poet living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In 2016, she won a DTES Small Arts Grant from the Vancouver Foundation which enabled her to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I found myself in the Downtown Eastside. Teresa exhibited 18 “Pretty Amazing” artworks as 4ft x 5ft posters in her first solo show at Gallery Gachet which launched on June 29, and wrapped up on July 2.

As a self-advocate with Down syndrome, Teresa presented her story, I Love My Human Rights, at the 2016 Canadian Down Syndrome Conference in Montreal. Teresa is a member of the BC Civil Liberties Association, Gallery Gachet, Inclusion BC, Family Support Institute of BC, and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. She loves chicken pie, word play and spotting the big boats in the Burrard Inlet.

In Canada, buy Teresa’s book at Amazon.ca: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside

Republished under license from Postmedia
Franke James (left) gives sister Teresa Pocock a hug at Gallery Gachet, where Pocock is mounting an exhibit of her artwork. GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG

CHERYL CHAN
Published on: June 29, 2016

Barely three years ago, Teresa Pocock was written off as “incapable” and banished to an old-age care home to live out the rest of her life in an institutionalized setting.

Today she is a poet and artist with a solo exhibit at Gallery Gachet that runs until Saturday.

“It’s a wonderful testament to her artistic ability,” said sister Franke James. “The artwork is fun and engaging. It expresses her discovery of the Downtown Eastside. It expresses a love of her life.”

It’s a far cry from November 2013 when Pocock, who has Down syndrome, was placed in a nursing home in Toronto against her and her father’s wishes.

James remembers seeing her younger sister “sitting on a single bed with a thin sheet hanging between her and a roommate who cannot walk, talk or feed herself.”

She was only 49, healthy and able-bodied, yet was “surrounded by people whose next stop was the grave,” recalled James, an environmental activist and artist. “She was being robbed of her future. It just broke my heart.”

Pocock had been happily living in a condo with her father. But at 91, he was starting to show early signs of cognitive decline. A family feud erupted over Pocock’s future care.

An assessment by Ontario’s community care access centre — which James said was unlawfully conducted because it went against her sister’s power-of-attorney directives — deemed Pocock incapable of deciding where she wants to live. This despite assertions she did not want to live in a care home and James’s repeated statements Pocock could come live with her and her husband.

Pocock lived in the home for four days until her dad managed to get her out. She moved in with James and James’s husband Billiam. A few months later, the family moved to a condo in Gastown.

Since then, Pocock has thrived. She’s danced in front of the White House, watched a parade in New York, helped collect trash from shorelines, made new friends and, along with James, presented at conferences in Montreal and Prince George.

“The world has opened up for her,” said James. “None of this would have happened if she stayed in a long-term care home.”

Her artistic streak was a recent discovery. After winning a $1,000 arts grant from the Vancouver Foundation, Pocock began working on an illustrated book of poems called Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside.

Those works and 18 large illustrations that depict her neighbourhood are on display at the gallery.

photography by Zack Embree

James said Pocock’s story is not an isolated case. Thousands of people with developmental disabilities are being placed in inappropriate homes, such as long-term care homes, without the proper supports for them.

An online petition, asking for an apology for Pocock from the Ontario government and the Toronto Community Care Access Centre for what she still refers to as her “danger day,” has collected more than 26,000 signatures.

James said she doesn’t blame her other siblings for what happened to Pocock, saying they couldn’t have put her in a long-term care home if the authorities didn’t enable it.

She recognized their actions and the government actions came from a well-meaning place. “They wanted to ensure Teresa has a safe place, a roof over her head and food in her belly all her life, and it was going to be paid for by the government,” she said.

“But it wasn’t what she wanted. It really shortchanged her and her life.”


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Material republished with the express permission of: Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

“I Am Alive” is the opening poem from Teresa’s new book, Pretty Amazing. It packs added punch when you know, that just a few years ago, her future was written off. But now Teresa has been “reborn” in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. And the unexpected story of how she found her voice — and found herself as an artist and poet — is at the heart Pretty Amazing.

I AM ALIVE

Hello.
Be nice to everyone.
Look, I am alive.
You have to be nice.
I am doing fine.
Thank goodness.
I have to be nice to them.
And to the others.
That’s a brilliant idea!
You’re thinking.
And I’m thinking too.
I think we need to make a list of the things we need.
Right. I’m alive. Nesters. Flying Pig. Prado.
We love it here.
Everybody loves me.
You guys are alright, I know.
You guys, I am born. I am alive.
Redeemed.
Okay, I am reborn.
In Gastown

Teresa_Celebration_2N7A0094lr
Read all about Teresa’s Pretty Amazing book launch which took place at Gallery Gachet on June 29, 2016.

BOOK DESCRIPTION – Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside

Pretty Amazing Cover KindleWhat does Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside look like through the eyes of an artist—an artist who also happens to have Down syndrome? Teresa Pocock’s colourful art and poetry let’s us see, hear and feel it from her unique viewpoint.

The heart of Pretty Amazing is the unexpected story of Teresa finding herself as an artist and poet. Previously, Teresa’s artistic expression was discouraged and ridiculed.

Her opening poem, I Am Alive, packs added punch when you know that her future was written off a few years ago when she lived in Ontario. In 2013, Teresa was forced into an Ontario nursing home against her will. The Ontario health-care system had wrapped her in—as disability advocate Paul Young aptly describes it —“a cocoon of impossibility”. Against her wishes, Teresa’s liberty and freedom was traded for a single bed in an end-of-life nursing home. It was a violation of her human rights. She did not want to be there. Teresa had things to do, places to go, and people to meet!

In the Downtown Eastside of  Vancouver, Teresa has found her voice. It is a voice that talks about feeling “butterflies”, but still finds the courage to fly. Teresa has, in her own words, been “reborn in Gastown.”

We’ll have copies of Teresa’s Pretty Amazing book for purchase. (The book will also be available on Amazon, in print and ebook formats.)

Plus… Eighteen 4’ x 5’ original artworks by Teresa will be on display. Admission is free. The artist’s favourite refreshments, cranberry juice and raspberry bars, will be served!

Who made this Pretty Amazing event possible?

Teresa won a DTES Small Arts grant to create the illustrated book. The Vancouver Foundation created the Downtown Eastside Small Arts Grants Program, in partnership with the Carnegie Community Centre, to help DTES artists advance their careers by supporting and showcasing their work.

Vancouver Foundation: Small Arts Grant

Pretty Amazing