Born To Represent… Diversity!
By Franke James, (Teresa’s sister and cheerleader!)
Teresa Heartchild’s art exhibition, “Born to Represent”, opened on Monday, July 22, 2019. The one-week show was presented by Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) at 312 Main Street, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The exhibition featured Teresa’s music videos, self-talk poetry, and numerous large-scale artworks.
The date, July 22, 2019, was also significant because it was Teresa’s 55th birthday and represented a major milestone in her life. It was Teresa’s third solo show since 2016, and the biggest one yet!
Teresa uses words, pictures, and music to express her unique worldview and to assert her rights to inclusion. She challenges the systemic discrimination faced by people who are different — especially those who have intellectual disabilities.
Behind the Scenes: The Advance Show Preparation
Organizing Teresa’s art show was a team effort which included the artist and many people pitching in to help. PLAN’s Director, Rebecca Pauls helped Teresa, myself and my husband Billiam James hang the show. Teresa told us which pieces she wanted in the show and also specified in which order they were to be hung.
Teresa watched with interest as my husband applied the ‘Born to Represent’ show signage to the gallery wall.
The gallery at 312 Main is a large space with screens at each end, which proved ideal to showcase Teresa’s videos from 2014 to 2018. In the video above Teresa is dancing to her “I am Alive” video from 2016.
The BC Alliance for Arts and Culture distributed a media release about Teresa’s show which helped spread the news. Teresa participated in two radio interviews and was remarkably comfortable and outgoing on-air. She invited people to come out to see her art — and in one live interview even gave out my mobile phone number. (Yikes!)
Teresa put on her favorite tie-dye shirt for the opening. She said it was “tremendous” to see her art on the walls. (This photo, and all of the following event photos from July 22, 2019, are by This Is It Studios. Thank you, Isabella Sarmiento!)
“I was born with what was seen to be a disability,” raps Teresa. “But no, no, no. It’s just me, me, me… living in reality.” Teresa has Down syndrome and is proud of her identity. Nevertheless, the discrimination and adversity she has experienced as a result of her genetic condition have inspired her to find her voice as an artist, author, and self-advocate.
“As an active, contributing citizen in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood, Teresa’s art taps into the often unspoken thoughts and pleasures of modern life,” says Rebecca Pauls, Director of PLAN. “For anyone looking for a bit of everyday joy, self-expression, and connection, this exhibit is not to be missed.”
Teresa’s art show drew about 75 guests. It was a diverse mix of people from the disability sector, environmental groups, health, education, arts, music, as well as politicians and staff from the municipal, provincial and federal governments, who came out to support Teresa.
Teresa was honoured to have her Member of Parliament, Jenny Kwan come to her art show.
Teresa showed her poem Eyes of the Tiger to Jenny Kwan.
Visitors commented on the exuberance of Teresa’s art. Some guests remarked that Teresa’s poem ‘More Mayonnaise’ spoke directly to them.
Visitors remarked on the courage and resiliency which Teresa demonstrates through her art and poetry.
Vistors watched Teresa’s “Human Rights Should Be For Everybody” video. The video was part of her Change.org campaign in 2014. Teresa’s art and social media campaign earned an apology from the Ontario government. “I love my human rights”, Teresa said. “Don’t take them away just because I have Down syndrome.”
Visitors pose for pictures in front of Teresa’s artwork.
Visitors posed with copies of Teresa’s books in front of Teresa’s artwork.
I posed with Teresa in front of her artwork. (I had wondered whether my dress was too colorful, but the two of us just complimented Teresa’s art!)
Visitors captured Teresa’s artwork on their smartphones.
Teresa’s art show was a magnet for inclusion. It brought together people from many different social sectors and all levels of government.
Teresa was delighted to receive roses from Laurel, an inclusion support teacher in BC — and one of Teresa’s “fans”.
Teresa was congratulated by Rosh, a friend, and fellow self-advocate, artist and author.
Teresa was thrilled to receive a bouquet of flowers to celebrate her art opening.
Everyone wanted to shake Teresa’s hand.
Disability consultant and researcher Aaron Johannes from “Imagine a Circle” congratulated Teresa on her show.
Friends from the disability support community shook Teresa’s hand and congratulated her on her art show.
Everyone wanted to shake Teresa’s hand. She was so pleased!
More friends congratulated Teresa on her show.
Even I got to shake Teresa’s hand to officially congratulate her on her milestone achievement!
And I gave the Artist a big hug, too!
DTES artist Edzy came out to support Teresa and her art show.
Artists Rosh and Teresa were in deep conversation.
People lined up to have Teresa sign copies of her “Totally Amazing” and “Pretty Amazing” books.
Teresa inspired everyone to get up and do the chicken dance.
Billiam James joined in the fun chicken dance.
Friends Laurel, Bob, and Rosh smiled in front of Teresa’s artwork.
Liz, Barb, and Franke remarked that their patterned dresses match Teresa’s colourful patterned artwork very well.
“Teresa, her sister Franke James and brother-in-law Billiam James demonstrate the power of relationships and family leadership in everything that they do.” says Rebecca Pauls, “Without the loving, natural care and advocacy of family, friends and supportive organizations, Teresa’s life would not be what it is today.”
The host, Rebecca Pauls, Director of PLAN posed for a picture with educator & researcher Aaron Johannes, Imagine a Circle.
Happy Birthday, Teresa!