FRANKE JAMES

Artistic 

Ability is Celebrated During Down Syndrome Week!

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.

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!

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