The mission of Upstream Arts is to enhance the lives of adults and youth with disabilities by fostering creative communication and social independence through the power of arts education.

Upstream Arts was founded in 2006 by a professional theatre artist and an educator who successfully used the communicative tools of theater and dance–movements, body language, and facial expressions– to engage their son, who was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and is non-verbal.

Since then, Upstream Arts has grown exponentially. “We do community programs to reach different people in different places, and to raise awareness of how the arts can impact people of all abilities,” said Bree Sieplinga, associate director of Upstream Arts. “Social skills can impact a person’s ability to get and keep a job,” she said. “We do role playing and act out different scenarios so people can practice different workplace situations.”

Upstream Arts “Ready for Work” program. Photograph courtesy of Upstream Arts.

Starting in September, Upstream Arts will present “Ready for Work,” at two Hennepin County libraries. “Ready for Work” is a free program series that uses theater and dance, visual arts, music, and poetry activities designed to develop social and communication skills for workplace readiness. The programs are appropriate for adults, including those with disabilities; instructors are accomplished, professional Twin Cities artists who have received specialized training to work with students of all abilities. The artists lead program participants in arts activities that nurture self-expression, conversation, and group interaction skills.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Hennepin County libraries to help an even wider range of people develop skills vital to getting and keeping jobs,” says Sieplinga.

In the Hennepin County Library area? Visit the libraries’ website for more information, including how to register for the “Ready for Work” program.

For more information about arts programs at the Hennepin County Library, check out these Library as Incubator Project posts:

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