Nicole Flynn has unofficially given herself the middle name “Challenge”.
This is because whatever the 19-year-old Scarborough resident is faced with, she welcomes the challenge with open arms and aims to succeed at it.
Flynn has a life with a packed social and extracurricular calendar, including synchronized and competitive swimming for the past 12 years, performing in local theatre and exhibiting and selling works from her more recent passion, nature and wildlife photography. Having Down’s Syndrome hasn’t slowed her down one bit.
This Friday, Sept. 21, Flynn will be exhibiting some of her photography at an exhibition called Toronto: Street Level, a group photography exhibition that will display works that showcase our city from a unique perspective. The exhibit is also part of Toronto’s annual Abilities Arts Festival (AAF).
“It’s really looking at Toronto through the lens of people with disabilities,” said Rina Fraticelli, AAF’s executive director, “...the photographers come from all different perspectives, different ages, different races, different abilities, levels of experience and aesthetics.”
The photography exhibition is just one of the many events taking place as a part of the AAF, an almost three-week festival that includes musical and theatrical performances, film screenings and a media festival. This year marks AAF’s 10th anniversary, and Fraticelli said participating artists hail from all over the GTA and surrounding areas, and also include guest artists from British Columbia and the United Kingdom.
Fraticelli said the AAF organization and festival have grown a lot in the past 10 years, and is important in being able to showcase disability arts and culture.
“Our job is to remove the obstacles from either the artists in doing their work or the audience in seeing the work,” she said. “It could be as simple as wheelchairs accessibility or they need ASL or making sure the film has subtitles for those who have hearing impediments.”
The event kicks off officially with a gala event this Thursday that will have live entertainment, food and a silent auction. Flynn, who loves to dress up, said she is excited to attend the gala, and her mother Kathy said it’s a full circle moment for her daughter because in past years they’ve enjoyed being visitors to the event and now Flynn is an exhibiting artist.
Flynn said she is looking forward to exhibiting her work in Toronto, after selling and showing her work for the past two summers at the farmer’s market in Madoc, ON, where her family has a cottage.
“Painters will come and buy her photos and then go home and use them to paint them into their own paintings, so they use them as a jumping point,” Kathy Primrose, her mom, said.
Because she loves nature photography, Flynn said she gets a lot of her inspiration in natural areas such as Madoc, Algonquin Park and from wildlife centres she has visited. However, her photos aren’t limited to nature and wildlife, she also likes to photograph street scenes and anything that catches her eye.
“Nicole is often told she has a unique and an amazing perspective,” Primrose said. “I get that a lot but mostly I get that I have a good eye,” Flynn said.
The public can catch Flynn’s amazing photography starting this Friday at the opening of the Toronto: Street Level exhibit as part of the AAF, which runs until Oct. 11.
For more information on the gala, for tickets or a complete listing of the festival events, call 416-593-9475 or visit www.abilitiesartsfestival.org