Changing lives through circus arts

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My 16 year old son, Blayze, was introduced to the Circus Project at a Community Showcase in the summer of 2016.  His excitement was so uncontainable he jumped on stage mid-show.  Though his debut was slightly mistimed, his enthusiasm and aptitude were apparent.  The Circus Project staff recognized Blayze’s potential, and went to great lengths to create a program through which to develop it - scheduling individualized training with specialized coaches and providing financial assistance. 

Blayze is significantly impaired by autism.  He has severe anxiety, demonstrates self-injurious behavior, and shows a lack of interest in participating in activities.  Adolescence has magnified his autism, to the extent that he is not able to attend school, and was recently placed in a group home.  

Training at the Circus Project has been a highlight in Blayze’s life, bringing him rare joy during a very difficult time. Circus motivates him to get out of bed and shower.  It improves his self-esteem and enhances his quality of life.  And it has allowed others, including the staff at his group home, to witness just how capable Blayze is.  The coaches at the Circus Project have demonstrated that with the right approach, Blayze can follow direction, engage with his teachers, and learn from instruction.  As a result, Blayze will start High School in a classroom setting this January! 

The Circus Project has been instrumental in preparing Blayze to return to school, and helpful while advocating for classroom placement from the school district. The program is the best thing that’s happened to Blayze this year.  For me as a parent, watching him train and seeing him smile has been food for my soul. 

- Brenda Lynn Arbsland, Parent

Joesai  Carr  

I grew up on the Southeast coast on the US, with occasional trips around the country as well as a short but intense stint in the army. During these forays, I had a glimpse of the fact that there was/is/will be more than I knew was out there, and I could be a part of it. When coming of age reared its arrogant head, I decided to take the plunge; I packed up everything that I could fit on my back & left everything I knew. Once out in the wilds of Portland, OR, with a much bigger mouthful of unknown than I planned for, I made several poor decisions and found myself homeless. Not one to run home, I decided to roll with it, and see what I could learn from having literally nothing. Oh, I learned.   Read more here

Gwen O'Brien

After seeing a Cirque du Soleil show touring through town at the impressionable age of four, I acquired an insatiable desire to pursue a life in circus. Although delayed for the next twelve years of my life in favor of more typical pursuits, such as gymnastics, soccer, and vocal performance, I sustained my fascination with circus and prioritized seeing every show that came through town. It wasn’t until a chance Groupon add for an aerial silks class popped up on my computer screen that I became aware of the circus presence in my own hometown of Portland.

From that first class, it became apparent that I was no prodigy.  Read more here

Nel Taylor

“The difference between this and other nonprofit programs was that nothing was handed to us; we had to work for it. Nobody gave me a job, or a grant, or a place to live, but I soon realized I would never complete the program without those basic needs. Circus motivated me to achieve them…never have I met a team of people with so much invested in my life and my future. These people believed in me, I guess that’s what having a coach is like.…I learned how to effectively communicate with my peers, how to observe and vocalize my safety boundaries, how to organize my time, how to build and maintain healthy relationships and how to eat nutritiously, among countless other valuable skills that played a major part in my recent transition from homelessness.”
—Nel Taylor, Training Company Graduate

Deborah Westlight

I fell into the circus by chance.  My family sat next to the boyfriend of a performer at a show, and he mentioned aerial summer camps. I was a couch potato afraid of commitment, so summer camp was the perfect way for me to explore the air.  I’ll admit that I hated it at first.  I was tired and grumpy and sore after camp everyday. I was bruised and battered, and I did not like feeling clumsy and weak.  But on the last day of camp I flexed my arms and something strange happened.  For the first time in my life, I could see my muscles!
Read more here