April 2, 2020 by Franke James, Teresa’s sister

Teresa Pocock got some fabulous news today, April 2, 2020… Canada Council approved her Arts Abroad Travel Grant for her past trip to Mexico. In November 2019 Teresa flew to Mérida to see her art exhibited in the Deep Down Arts show. Whoah! She’s lucky to have gone because she sure won’t be returning any time soon! (Teresa is following Vancouver’s Stay Home / Stay Put guidelines with me and my husband.) The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe makes us appreciate how very fortunate Teresa was to have seized the unique opportunity to travel to the opening ceremony.

The Deep Down Arts Exhibition was organized by the Macay Foundation. Teresa says, “Gracias!” to the Canada Council and Spectrum Society‘s McGill Ability Fund, for the grants to travel to the opening event in Mérida, Mexico on November 8, 2019.

Teresa was thrilled with the celebrity welcome at the Mérida airport on Nov 7, 2019!

Teresa said, “I match!” Indeed her colorful style fit in so well in Mexico!

Happening at the same time as the Deep Down Arts show there was also a global gathering of educators to discuss improving inclusion in society.

Teresa posed for pictures with delegates and speakers from the Advisory Council of the Institute for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of the State of Yucatán (IIPEDEY).

Teresa went on-stage to say hello to the crowd!

Teresa spontaneously went on-stage and introduced herself as an artist and author from Canada. “It is a beautiful design. I am a professional artist and I am on Amazon!”

The red ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of Deep Down Arts at the museum on November 8, 2019.

The dignitaries spoke about the global art exhibition and the importance of inclusion in Mexico.

Teresa gave the Director of the exhibition, Dr. Manuel Guerrero, a signed copy of her Totally Amazing book. Dr. Guerrero exclaimed, “You are totally amazing!”

The artist Teresa Pocock with me and Dr. Manuel Guerrero at the Deep Down Arts Exhibition. [Photo by Billiam James]

Teresa was delighted to meet with schoolchildren who were touring the Deep Down Arts show

An art teacher from Mérida said, “We need to teach the kids to have another type of mentality. Right here in Mexico, we don’t have this kind of art. We don’t have the diversity. We just get accustomed to the “normal” kind of art.”

Art and poem by Teresa Pocock


WIND WARNING

I’m afraid to go outside.
There’s a wind warning.
I’m afraid to get soaking wet.
I know what you mean.
I’m too chicken and the chickens are very tired.
The wind warning is in the background falling.
Don’t frighten me.
Blowing winds and showers.
Oh I see.
Now you’re afraid.
I’m afraid of…
It’s okay, don’t be scared of the showers.
You can take an umbrella.
Now that’s a brilliant idea. My coat is red.
My umbrella is red.
It’s okay to go outside. Don’t worry.
I do like to sit outside.
We see a big rainbow after the shower.
And the fireworks are beautiful. That’s it.


Teresa poses for a snapshot in front of the colorful Mérida signage

Teresa walked fearlessly amidst the throngs of pigeons. (You’ll hear me as the camera-person reacting to the birds too!)

Teresa made friends with inclusion advocates from around the world

It was a lot of fun! And truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will all treasure!

Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and Spectrum Society for Community Living‘s McGill Ability Fund for supporting Teresa’s Trip to Mérida, Mexico. Gracias!!

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)

Teresa Pocock’s “Artistic Ability” is featured in The Vancouver Foundation’s annual 2017 magazine, “Gifts of Inclusion”. This is perfect timing as November 1st to 7th is Canadian Down Syndrome Week — a week to celebrate the talents of people with Down syndrome and “See the Ability”. #CDNDownSyndromeWeek.

Read the Vancouver Foundation article by Roberta Staley below…


Artistic 

Ability

Terea Pocock photographed by Zack Embree at the opening of her art show at Gallery Gachet, Vancouver, BC in June 2016

Once forced to live in a senior’s

 care facility, Teresa Pocock has

 created a home, and a body of

 work, in Gastown

By Roberta Staley

VANCOUVER’S GASTOWN NEIGHBOURHOOD, abutting the Downtown Eastside, is known for its red brick 

buildings, cobblestone roadways, graffitied walls, steam

clock, Woodward’s and Dominion buildings, tech cluster

and busy restaurants and pubs. The people who navigate 

its streets are as heterogeneous as their environment:

entrepreneurs, academics, artists and activists, as well as

 those struggling with poverty and addiction.

Seated at a sturdy wooden table in a sleek, minimalist

 Gastown condo is Teresa Pocock. By way of greeting,

 she throws her arms in the air, exclaiming, “I am a self advocate!” 

– a sincere and indisputable declaration. It

 wasn’t an easy journey, but Pocock has learned to express 

herself as an artist and an activist, drawing the attention

 of thousands of people including politicians.

Pocock was inspired to become a working artist 

thanks in large part to a $1,000 Vancouver Foundation 

Downtown Eastside Small Arts Grant in 2016, which 

motivated her to create enough individual works to 

launch a solo show. “It really helped Teresa blossom into 

a professional artist,” says older sister Franke James, with 

whom she lives, along with brother-in-law Bill James, in 

the Gastown home filled with books and art.

Pocock’s inaugural exhibit premiered June 29, 2016 and

 showcased an array of richly illustrated poetry, mounted 

bus-poster size on the walls of Gastown’s Gallery Gachet. 

Opening night doubled as the book launch for Pocock’s

 self-published Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the

 Downtown Eastside, and a selection of the book’s poems and 

illustrations were part of the exhibit. The bold verse, as well as

 

the jewel-coloured art, show an individual who is confident 

about asserting her place in the world, writing in the poem I

 Am Alive: “Redeemed/Okay, I am reborn/In Gastown.”


“Now she can say she’s an artist and a poet,” says Bill.

 “It has given her a huge sense of purpose to her life.”

What makes these accomplishments so significant – 

extraordinary even – is that Pocock has Down syndrome.

As her book title alludes, her life has not followed a simple 

course. In early 2013, Pocock’s elderly father, with whom she

 lived in Toronto, had failing health and was about to move to 

a care home. Several siblings placed Pocock, the youngest of

 seven, in a long-term seniors care facility without their father’s

 approval. Franke and Bill, along with Pocock’s dad, spent 

four days wrangling with government officials, nursing home

 management and even the police to get her out. Pocock 

then went to live permanently with Franke and Bill.

Teresa Pocock is hugged by her sister Franke James; photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG for Vancouver Sun and The Province; licensed for use
That wasn’t the end, however. With the help of

 Franke and Bill – who are business partners in the 

communications firm The James Gang, Iconoclasts –

 Pocock made a campaign video for the website change.org

 protesting her confinement and demanding atonement

 while asserting the rights of the disabled. The petition, 

launched on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 

2014, called out the Ontario government for supporting 

her placement in an institution that was clearly unsuited to her age – she was then 49 – abilities and temperament. In

 the video, Pocock calls for an apology from the government 

for denying her human rights. “I was crying and scared,”

 Pocock says to the camera. “It’s my right to decide where 

to live … I did not want to be there.” She received 26,000

 online signatures of support.

In November 2016, as a result of public pressure and

 media attention, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-

Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins wrote a letter of apology to 

Pocock. Franke framed it and hung it in the front hallway.

That wasn’t the only time Pocock has attracted the

 attention of politicians. At the opening of her gallery 

show, a staff member of Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan

 presented Pocock with a certificate from Kwan, applauding

 her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.” It is

 also framed and hangs in Pocock’s bedroom. Teresa Pocock holding the achievement certificate awarded to her by MP Jenny Kwan

Since the exhibit, Pocock has been drawing nearly

 every day in her artist’s sketchbooks. Her inspiration has 

become Gastown itself, edgy despite its gentrification, noisy

 and raw, a working harbour with cargo ships loading and 

unloading in Burrard Inlet. Pocock draws what is around 

her: the geometric pattern of windows on the Woodward’s

 building; her favourite coffee shop Prado; London Drugs;

 Nesters Market and, most endearing to Pocock, The Flying

 Pig bistro, with its homemade macaroni and cheese, and 

desserts. “I like chocolate cake,” says Pocock, who does 

yoga, plays Scrabble and reads in her spare time.

“Teresa’s art shows what she cares about, what she 

is feeling and thinking and what she’s afraid of and 

excited about,” says Franke. “She shows that she belongs 

in the world.”

Pocock has another project in the works; she is planning

 what Franke describes as “an unconventional, freewheeling 

cookbook” full of her favourite foods. “We thought the 

book could have information about the neighbourhood

 and where Teresa actually gets the food.” As with her 

first publication, it too will be filled with images and

 drawings. “And we’ll go to the Flying Pig,” Pocock adds.

Franke muses on her younger sister’s influence in

 Gastown. “In society, there is a tendency to take people 

who are different and segregate and hide them away. When

 Teresa is out in the world, it brings out good things in

 people. Like at restaurants, they will bend over backwards

 because Teresa is with us. We call it the Teresa Effect.”


To learn more about the Downtown Eastside Small Arts

Grants program visit 

vancouverfoundationsmallarts.ca. You can

 also help support this program with a donation. Call Kristin 

in Donor Services at 604.629.5186 for more information.




CREDITS

“ARTISTIC ABILITY” written by ROBERTA STALEY for the Vancouver Foundation.

Read The Gifts of Inclusion, Vancouver Foundation’s 2017 Annual Magazine. Also available in eReader version. Or download the Adobe Acrobat PDF

PHOTOGRAPHS

Photo by Zack Embree
Photo by Zack Embree

Photo by Gerry Kahrmann for PostMedia (licensed):
Photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG

Photos by Franke James:
Teresa reading and enjoying the Vancouver Foundation article October 30 2017. Photos by Franke James Photo of Teresa Pocock by Franke James Photo of Teresa Pocock by Franke James


Help open eyes and hearts to “See the Ability” of those with Down syndrome. Join in raising awareness about the abilities and unique gifts of people with Down syndrome during #CDNDownSyndromeWeek. Spread the word!

By Franke James

My sister Teresa is stepping forward as a self-advocate. She has written a letter to Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins asking him to please send her a letter!


“Dear Minister Hoskins, It was nice that you apologized on TV for putting me into a nursing home. But it’s weird that you have not sent me the apology in writing. Did you forget? Please send me a letter. I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable…”

For over two months, Teresa has been waiting — and waitingand WAITING — to hear from Minister Hoskins. Because two months ago, on July 22, the Minister apologized on Global News TV for Ontario’s placement of Teresa in a “seniors residence” in 2013. I think most Canadians would be shocked that Teresa — at 49-years of age — was placed in a nursing home which specialized in dementia and palliative care.

The Minister’s statement of apology on TV was good news. But confusingly, there was no follow up by him, or any Ministry staff!

Teresa herself calls it “weird” that he has not sent her the apology in writing. I agree. Most people would expect that the Minister would have contacted Teresa afterwards. Most people would expect that at the very least he would have sent a letter to Teresa. More than two months has elapsed, and there has been NO letter expressing regret. NO phone call to say sorry. Nothing. It sends a message that they don’t really care.

So Teresa wrote this letter to Minister Hoskins…

Teresa Pocock's letter to Minister Hoskins Sept 23, 2016: Dear Minister Dr. Hoskins, It was nice that you apologized on TV for putting me into a nursing home. But it's weird that you have not sent me the apology in writing. Did you forget? Please send me a letter. I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable. I am an artist and a poet. My book is “Pretty Amazing” and totally amazing. Sincerely,Teresa Pocock

As Teresa herself writes, she did not want to live in a nursing home. Her “placement” in 2013 was done against her wishes and was very traumatic. It changed her life. Global News Journalist, Christina Stevens did a two-part news story about Teresa’s experience: “Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government.” Stevens interviewed Minister Hoskins, but he refused to answer any questions about Teresa’s file citing “privacy” reasons. Teresa and I then gave permission for the Minister to speak with Stevens for the second part of the news story.

Stevens did some remarkable digging to find out how many other people with developmental disabilities are in long-term care. She discovered that Teresa is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than two thousand, nine hundred “Teresas” living in Ontario long-term care facilities.  Stevens pressed Minister Hoskins for an apology for Teresa. He did not appear on air, but sent a statement to Global News: “I would like to apologize to Ms. Pocock and her family for her being placed in a seniors residence.”

The Minister’s statement of apology on television was good news. But confusingly, there was no follow up by him, or any Ministry staff! Why has there not been any follow up?

Most Canadians do not realize — and I did not know until it happened to my sister — that nursing homes have become the new dumping ground for the intellectually disabled. I now see this segregation as an insidious form of discrimination. The Canadian Association for Community Living writes, “Today in Canada, thousands of Canadians with intellectual disabilities remain trapped in large, segregated institutions — inappropriately and unjustifiably segregated from society. They remain, for the most part, hidden and removed from mainstream society despite a collective knowledge, based on research and practice over the past 30 years, that with proper community based supports all persons with intellectual disabilities thrive in the community. They remain in these institutions as a result of inaction by governments and communities.”

The Ontario government is facing a big crisis regarding adults with developmental disabilities. The Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, has just completed a multi-year investigation into Ontario’s treatment and care of people with developmental disabilities. On August 24, Mr. Dubé published Nowhere to Turn,” a highly critical report on the Ontario government’s handling of the crisis, calling it a “systemic failure”. I read the 182-page report in full, as well as numerous media reports and editorials on it.
ntt-cover-en
The Ombudsman’s report detailed many heartbreaking cases, including those which amount to “a modern-day version of institutionalization.” Mr. Dubé also acknowledged that long-term care homes are providing institutional care to adults with developmental disabilities, “despite the fact that such settings can be wholly unsuitable.” 

“In my opinion, the Ministry’s response to urgent situations involving adults with developmental disabilities and its administration of the process to address crisis cases has been unreasonable and wrong. I have made 60 recommendations for reform, including a requirement that the Ministry [of Community and Social Services] report back on its progress in implementing necessary changes.”

But despite sounding the alarm, the Ombudsman also struck an optimistic, upbeat note. He cited a new “culture change” and better leadership!

What really made the difference is leadership, and attitudinal changes at the Ministry, from the top down. Officials are no longer aloof and are more willing to engage directly in resolving individual crisis cases. They are no longer on the defensive when dealing with our Office and see the value we can add in helping them maximize service to Ontarians.”

I would like to believe Mr. Dubé. I hope that the Ontario government has turned over a new leaf — and sincerely wants to do better in its treatment of people with developmental disabilities. I believe that the Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, would want — indeed expect — Minister Hoskins to show some respect and kindness to Teresa by sending her a letter.

If I had Minister Hoskins‘ ear, I would tell him that this is a golden opportunity for him to show the Ontario Ombudsman that there really has been a “culture change” in Ontario’s treatment of people with developmental disabilities. And that by sending a sincere letter of apology to my sister Teresa he will demonstrate that he is part of the change (and his apology was not just done to please the TV audience).

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
~Hubert H. Humphrey

Teresa has sent her letter to Minister Hoskins — along with an autographed hardcover copy of her new book, Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside. We hope the Minister replies.

teresaautograph_2695_1000

RELEVANT LINKS:
Pretty Amazing Cover KindleTeresa Pocock’s book: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside.

Teresa Pocock’s Change.org Petition: Tell the Ontario Government, Human Rights Should Never Be Disabled.

Human Rights Letter: BC Civil Liberty Association‘s July 12, 2016 letter in support of Teresa, was co-signed by the Canadian Association for Community Living, Inclusion BC, Plan Institute, People First of Canada, Spectrum Society for Community Living, Vickie Cammack, and Al Etmanski.

Vancouver Sun: Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside

"I Am Alive" by Teresa Pocock on Vimeo.

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.