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)

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“I am alive! I am reborn in Gastown!” says author and artist Teresa Pocock.

Teresa is defying the “health care system” that wrongly labelled her “incapable” two years ago when she lived in Ontario.

In 2016, Teresa Pocock won a DTES Small Arts Grant to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside. The book is now available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats. Teresa’s book launch and solo show took place on June 29 at Gallery Gachet, in Vancouver, B.C.

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Winning the arts grant inspired Teresa to focus on creating an illustrated book. Before that, she had never created a book. Or exhibited her art. Or shown people her poetry. Now, Teresa is a professional artist, poet and published author. Her achievements are impressive for anyone, regardless of I.Q. Her artistic voice is confident and bold.

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It’s a wonderful testament to her artistic ability,” said her sister Franke James. “The artwork is fun and engaging. It expresses her discovery of the Downtown Eastside. It expresses a love of her life.” Teresa creates her illustrations using magic markers on fine art paper. The 4ft x 5ft posters are digital reproductions of her art printed on flexible plastic sheets (just like bus shelter posters). The posters can be rolled and transported anywhere in the world — so she may one day have an international exhibition!

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Teresa stands in front of her Hastings and Abbott illustration and poem from her book, “Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside“. Teresa has mapped out the neighbourhood as she sees it. Her favourite coffee shop is Prado. She shops for groceries at Nesters and Costco. She loves to visit Gallery Gachet, London Drugs, Top of Vancouver, Woodwards and the Flying Pig. From her home in Gastown, she watches the big cargo ships, like Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd and Hyundai sailing into the Port of Vancouver. All of these elements combine to create her distinctive visual and poetic vocabulary.

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Pretty Amazing! The show drew a large and lively crowd. Supporters from Inclusion BC, Spectrum Society, PLAN Institute, the BC Humanist Association, All Bodies Dance, MP Jenny Kwan’s office, the City of Vancouver and Community Living BC all came out to see Teresa’s art.

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Discovering the Downtown Eastside:
Teresa draws inspiration from her surroundings. She can see the Vancouver Sun building and the Harbour Centre from her home in Gastown. Her poems originate from her self-talk. Teresa reads her poems aloud, and continues working on them until she’s happy with them.

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Art builds community:
Teresa has been participating in the weekly Expressive Arts workshop at Gallery Gachet where she has met other artists in the DTES, including Laurie (above). Having her own solo show at Gallery Gachet was a big step forward for her. She was able to show everyone her art, her poetry and her video, “I am Alive.”

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Art is a healing tool. Teresa continues to feel the fallout from her experience of being forced into the nursing home. She expresses her worries in her art and “self-talk” poetry. Her poems reflect the dialogue she has with herself. Often, she takes on the role of her own parent saying, “Please be nice to my daughter.” In the poem, Those Monsters, 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 wherever she goes.)

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The Schedule is a poem that reveals how Teresa organizes her day. She plans exactly when she’s going to have breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Her drawings often incorporate numbers, which represent the times of the day. 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 recites the poem she laughs at her own cleverness.

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Teresa’s sister, Franke James, speaks with author Ted Kuntz about Teresa’s exuberant art.

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Gallery Gachet says “Art is a means for survival.” They have provided a supportive and very accepting community — exactly what Teresa needed to blossom as an artist and poet.

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Teresa stands in front of her illustration and poem, “We Love it Here”.

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Gallery visitors watched Teresa’s video, “I am Alive.”


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A local artist wrote in Teresa’s Pretty Amazing Guest book, “I’ve never seen anything like this!” Others commented on her wonderful use of colour and shape. Teresa has indeed found her voice in the Downtown Eastside. 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”.

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The former secretary at Teresa’s Grade School in Ontario read about the show in the Vancouver Sun and dropped in. She wrote, “Wonderful to see all this artwork by Teresa. What a girl!”

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Our local MP, Jenny Kwan, gave Teresa a congratulatory certificate which recognized her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.”

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Teresa gives special thanks to the Vancouver Foundation for the DTES Small Arts Grant that made her Pretty Amazing book and show possible!

Media about the show:

VANCOUVER SUN:
Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
THE PROVINCE:
Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
GLOBAL NEWS TV:
Artist with Down syndrome, called ‘incapable’ opens solo art show
BC BOOK LOOK:
Eastside Inspiration 

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.

Where to buy Teresa Pocock’s book:
Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats.

Credits
Primary event photography: Zack Embree
Some additional photos by Franke James and Billiam James
Gallery Gachet: “Art is a means for survival.”

Please sign Teresa’s petition at Change.org

Teresa Power Walks: Forced into a Nursing Home at 49. Now She’s Free!

Watch Teresa Pocock ‘power walk’ — and ask yourself how anyone could think she belongs in a nursing home! It is crazy! Who would deny Teresa her freedom?

Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened last November. Teresa who has Down syndrome, was forced against her will into an old-age nursing home, by the CCAC and two of my siblings. Four days later, she was rescued by my 91-year old father who was “adamant” he did not want his daughter living in a nursing home.

But then the nursing home called the police, in a shockingly callous and bizarre effort to force her back.

By signing the petition you can help Teresa get an apology for the harm done to her. Teresa is asking the CCAC to apologize for wrongly taking away her human right to decide where she lives. Teresa is asking the Rekai Centre to apologize for calling the police in a completely unnecessary, intimidating and callous attempt to force her back into their institution.
We need to stand strong to protect the rights of developmentally disabled people so that what Teresa experienced does not happen to anyone else.

Please sign Teresa’s petition, because human rights should never be disabled. Thank you in advance for your support!

Hi I’m Teresa Pocock

Forced into a Nursing Home at age 49.
Now she’s free.

Much better.

Hi I’m Teresa Pocock, I’m 49.

Fighting the system
For human rights.

I’m having fun.

I’m power walking.
I’m power walking.
I’m power walking.

It’s my right.
It’s my right.
It’s my right to decide where I live.

For all the people with disabilities

Please sign my petition at
Please sign my petition at
Change.org
Change.org

Please visit me on the online at
teresapocock.com

Much better.

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Music Credit: Dan-O at http://danosongs.com/
Song Title: Book of the Monkey