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This article was published 29/10/2021 (200 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An art project is highlighting the rules of wheelchair basketball and inviting the public to play.
Let’s Play Wheelchair Basketball is a new sign that was installed at the Mayfair Recreation Centre outdoor basketball court in October.
The sign was created by the team who brought Allez Hop, a glow-in-the-dark wheelchair basketball court, to Nuit Blanche in 2019.
Local artists Thea Pedersen and Sasha Amaya teamed up with Manitoba Wheelchair Sports Association (MWSA) two years ago through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Youth WITH ART Community Public Art Program, which pairs organizations with artists of various forms.
"There are a lot of connections between sport and art, and those connections and parallels were things we really wanted to highlight, one of them being accessibility," Pedersen told The Sou’wester.
Pedersen said the team wanted to encourage the public to take part.
"Everyone can play wheelchair basketball," she said. "It’s a really cool alternative and it really opens up peoples’ eyes to sport, art and how accessible both of them can be in our community."
Since Allez Hop was only available during Culture Days and Nuit Blanche, Pederson and Amaya wanted to create a more permanent place for the MWSA athletes.
"That’s where the sign and making a space for them became a reality," Amaya said.
While the MWSA chose to partner with Pedersen and Amaya, both already had an interest in sports, so the project was a "perfect fit."
"We learned a ton, both about basketball and basketball culture in general, as well as wheelchair basketball specifically," Amaya said. "The really interesting thing about wheelchair basketball is that it’s not that different, in terms of its rules, from standing basketball.
"Of course, it’s physically different to play in the chair, but it’s an inclusive sport in the sense that people that use a wheelchair all the time and people that only use a wheelchair for playing the sport can play together."
"One prominent thing I learned was that we weren’t the only people who didn’t know about wheelchair basketball beforehand," Pedersen added. "It’s not commonly known, and it’s not commonly known that the rules and layout are really similar to standing basketball."
Putting the sign together was quite a process. First, they had to clarify a lot of the rules since they only had a limited space to explain the differences and similarities between wheelchair basketball and standing basketball.
From there, they created a graphic based on pictograms and then went through the process of getting permissions.
On Oct. 16, Pedersen and Amaya gathered with the MHSA team at the Mayfair Recreation Centre to play their first game at the basketball court.
"It’s a small thing, but we hope it can be a first step to making some public spaces feel more welcoming for wheelchair basketball and other inclusive sports," Amaya said.
Pedersen and Amaya have one more project to do with the MWSA before their term ends. To cap off the two years, they will be creating a small publication that tells the story of their time with the team and all the different events, workshops and creations they’ve done.
More information on Let’s Play Wheelchair Basketball, WITH ART and the Winnipeg Arts Council can be found at www.winnipegarts.ca
Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”