Augsburg News

News Archives - 2004

Seeing abilities instead of disabilities

April 2004
Cilje Mosand in front of a colorful mural

Cilje Nybord Mosand a social work student in the International Partners Program at Augsburg.

Seeing the abilities of people rather than their disabilities has given Cilje Nybord Mosand a dream and a plan, which she has taken back to her native Norway this summer. Mosand, a social work student in the International Partners Program at Augsburg, interned during the spring at a non-profit organization called Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, based in Minneapolis. Interact, a multidisciplinary arts center for adult artists with disabilities, features a large art studio and public gallery, rehearsal and performance space, a full-time faculty of professional artists, a performing arts training program, and a theater company.

Mosand was so impressed with Interact that she hopes to start a similar organization in the Scandinavian countries. "We have nothing like this in Norway," Mosand said. "This has been such a wonderful experience. You don’t see the disabilities of these people, rather the abilities they possess."

During her internship, Mosand assisted the professional artists who work with the disabled artists in all aspects of the theater, from writing the script and music, to acting. She even took part in the theater performance, playing the part—aptly enough—of a young woman named "Celia," who is Norwegian.

"We really liked having Cilje here," said Eriq Nelson, performing arts instructor at Interact. "She gave our ‘artists’ individual support and always had time for listening to them. Many times the staff doesn’t have this kind of time."

Nelson added that when Mosand first came, they envisioned her as support staff, doing odd jobs such as filling out paperwork. But, she became so involved with the artists the original plans quickly flew out the door.

"We have a large Norwegian population at the center and some have even been to Norway on tour, so they were excited about Cilje being from Norway. She liked being with the artists and they liked being with her."

Nelson said it was also fun to watch Mosand grow during her internship. "We even got her to be a part of the show. It was fun to see Cilje embrace that side of it. She was always willing to do whatever was needed to be done. She’s missed."

Actually, this is not Augsburg’s first encounter with Interact. A few years ago, education professor Susan O’Connor introduced Karl-Johan Johansen, a instructor from Sør Trøndelag College in Trondheim, Norway, and Per Frederiksen, with PROFF, an organization serving people with disabilities, to Interact while they were visiting Minneapolis. As a result of that visit, Johansen and Frederiksen secured funding in Norway for a group from Interact to travel to Norway and Denmark to give performances. The artists that went on this tour were the same ones who formed a bond with Mosand.

"What fascinated me about Interact is it’s so diverse," Mosand said. "The mix of people from a rainbow of ethnic, age, and disability groups gives one the impression of being in an inclusive Garden of Eden."
The artists help the community understand that gifts are given to all people, Mosand said, and that vision is not lost, nor even impaired by a disabling condition. "There are no superiors, inferiors; no staff versus clients. There is only the collegial mix of diverse people who are all focused on the same goals—the creation of beauty, the making of art."

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