Young Alumni Award 2017 - Shelley Martin

Leading a new conversation in health and well-being

Shelley MartinSince graduating from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences’ therapeutic recreation program in 2015 and receiving the Governor General’s silver medal for the graduate with the highest academic standing in the undergraduate program, Shelley has launched her second career as a pioneer in children’s inclusive arts programming.

Her passion for the arts combined with her degree in therapeutic recreation and her involvement with KidsAbility Centre for Child Development here in Waterloo, served as the inspiration for fulfilling her dream of creating a place where every kid can experience the joy of art and succeed at it, whatever their ability. Opening its doors in September 2015, Arts Abound has already engaged over 500 children in the Waterloo region in the arts. As Founder and Program Manager, Shelley fulfills the mission statement by providing meaningful art experiences for kids of all ages and all abilities by helping “children find and develop their inner artist.”

Shelley’s innovative model is not limited to her own studio; wherever possible, she works with individuals and groups in the community to support inclusive and equitable solutions to challenges that our communities face, including here at the University of Waterloo and within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

By creating a space that welcomes participants of all abilities, Shelley is leading a new conversation and in doing so, challenging the stigma that inclusive settings are too difficult to manage or perceived as undesirable. In modeling that everyone has an equal place at Arts Abound, Shelley is helping children and youth to understand the value in honouring difference and making room for everyone within a community. This commitment aligns with the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences’ focus since its founding fifty years ago: innovative, multi-disciplinary approaches to health and well-being.