SPEAK Season 2 Episode 6: Traveling the World with Claire

Claire Nedzela: Black and White Palm Trees, ink on paper

Rachel: Hi, I’m Rachel Gray

Debbie: and I’m Debbie Ratcliffe. Welcome to SPEAK.

Rachel: SPEAK is artists with developmental disabilities telling their own stories and today on SPEAK…

Debbie: We have a very special lady. Her name is Claire…

Rachel: Nedzela, and she’ll be sharing stories with us…

Debbie: about her history,

Rachel: and her creativity,

Debbie: and her love of art,

Rachel: and her love of fame,

Debbie: and her love of family.

Rachel: This episode is gonna sound a little bit different than some of the other episodes we’ve had. It’s important to Claire that she be understood in this episode, which is something that she often struggles with, so we’re trying something new and a bit different. We’re adding my voice as a kind of audio caption in this episode.

Debbie: It sounds really good. Tell us more about it.

Rachel: Uh, well it was a bit of a complicated and experimental system to test out. One thing I was really aware of when kind of working with Claire to develop this is that many people with disabilities experience somebody speaking for them or correcting the way that they speak.

And we really didn’t wanna repeat this dynamic in the podcast.

Debbie: That’s great!

Rachel: Yeah. And if you’d like to hear a version that doesn’t have my voice, you can find that on SPEAK’s website, along with some of Claire’s awesome artwork and images from the podcast.

Debbie: Later!

Rachel: All right. Should we, should we get started?

Debbie: Yep. Yep.

Claire/Rachel: This is my life story.

I come from a multi-country family from England and Canada. My great-great-grandfather was a park ranger in Algonquin Park. Also, an artist.

He was a friend of Tom Thompson, the artist. My great-grandfather spent his summers in the park and also painted. I like to think that I am carrying on a family tradition. By painting, I can go back four generations: great-great-grandpa, Bud Callahan (1800-1974); Great-grandpa Dick Callahan (1905-1995); grandmother Cora Callahan (1931-2018); my mother, Jennifer (1954-now); and me, Claire (1985-now).

Rachel: Claire comes from a multi-country family and has traveled all over the world.

Claire/Rachel: When I was little, I spent many summers with my aunt in England. It is from these stays that I fell in love with Shakespeare and his plays, his home, castles, also actors and actresses.

I lived in Grenoble for a year and spent time in Paris with my father’s parents.

I traveled in Tunisia and Morocco when my father gave summer courses in those countries.

Rachel: Claire sailed the Nile river to Sudan, along the coast of Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico.

She spent many months in Florida with her mother and grandmother and traveled on a cruise to the Caribbean and down the Amazon. She has flown to the end of South America and sailed up the coast of Chile, traveling on to Peru and Ecuador.

Claire/Rachel: These are the connections of my life, which radiate out through my artwork. Can you see these connections? I can tell you what it feels like to be misunderstood. I can say that it feels frustrating and annoying sometimes.

I wish people could understand me better when I speak. It is a hill. I am constantly trying to get over. It takes away my confidence to go forward, but I work hard. I will continue speaking clearly so people can understand me better. I used to speak

I used to take speech therapy when I was younger. It helped me very much and I am able to communicate better. I hope the whole world listens to me and accepts me as I am.

I always had a lot of space in my head for imagination ever since I was a little girl and watched Disney movies. It is where I go to dream and be in a fantasy world, filled with magic.

The movies and plays helped me to focus, to research and to escape from everyday life.

Being famous is important to me because it takes a lot of hard work and energy. Acting is a lot of fun. It takes a lot of dedication to be good at acting.

It is everything to me. It is the happy ending of my dreams. It is my motivation to succeed, to achieve the best and to be rewarded for all my hard work.

It is my energy and my power.

Rachel: I want to describe a drawing by Claire. Claire has made a lot of work about herself and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

I first learned about her relationship with Belle when I was working with her on the first issue of our online magazine CLICK. Her story starts: “I dreamed I was in an enchanted forest. Rumple was there in his dark castle and suddenly my mother Belle was there as well.”

In this story, Belle gives birth to a baby girl named Claire. In this drawing, we see Claire grownup for the first time. She looks just like Belle. She’s wearing a yellow ball gown with swirls. Her hair is brown. Her eyes are blue. She’s surrounded by lines, like she’s radiating energy. Beside this drawing, Claire wrote “Belle is told that her baby is destined to be a savior and Rumple loves their daughter with Down Syndrome.”

Claire/Rachel: Belle from Beauty and the Beast is quite similar to me.

coming. She has brown hair, hazel and blue eyes, and she is more than physically like me. We share some of the same characteristics in life. Some examples are, she loves to read many books, helping people, being compassionate and loving. She lives her dreams. She has achieved the happy ending with her prince who was once the Beast.

Claire: This is a poem I wrote, “The Artist I”:

“Art is a moment or a moment or an instant.

Fast or slow,

natural and deep down through the artistic nature

of the artist I, of an artist.

I know this world.

It is my spirit because my grandfather and great-grandfather were artists in oil.

My art, like theirs, comes from my heart imagination,

Painted and sketched in my books and on canvas.

Looking down at me feels warmth, joy, and in the process of creating. I feel happiness. Starting with the song on my lips and a smile on my face, I can only improve upon the creative art and look forward to seeing the results of my imagination shine. Art is a piece of cake to me.

Rachel: SPEAK is hosted by

Debbie: Debbie “The Dragon” Ratfliffe

Rachel: produced and co-hosted by Rachel Gray

Debbie: theme music by Jesse Stewart

Rachel: Episode music by Mikayla Gordon.

Debbie: Our consulting editor is Allie Graham

Rachel: Our mix editor is Jamie McDonald. Thanks for listening!

At Claire’s request, Rachel is providing some audio captioning to help listeners understand Claire’s speech.

The music for this episode was composed by Seiiizi.