Facilitator Spotlight: Stephanie Browning
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 01:54 PM
by Anita Dacanay
Interviewing new Still Point Facilitator Stephanie Browning for this blog was truly a joy. Of course, that is only fitting, as Stephanie’s approach to her work was summed up in her first conversation with Still Point Founder, Lisa Wagner-Carollo, when she proclaimed to Lisa, “My agenda is joy.”
Stephanie cheerfully explained her unique background in the arts, which started when she was a young girl in Boulder, Colorado who threw herself into piano lessons, singing, acting, and all manner of performance. Shortly after she graduated from high school, Stephanie entered a modeling contest – and won. This started her on a modeling career. Eventually, she shifted into several years working as a photo stylist and studio manager, which she felt better suited her creative identity. “I had a lot of ideas,” she quipped, “And nobody wants a model with ideas.”
This lifestyle too wore thin after a few years, and Stephanie began to do some soul-searching regarding what her true path should be, and what would bring her the greatest fulfillment. A phone call from a friend in Chicago helped set her course, as her friend regaled her with stories of the rich music and performance scene in Chicago. “You’d love it here!” her friend insisted.
Stephanie decided that the answer to her soul-searching would be found in becoming a jazz singer in Chicago. So, in 1991, that is precisely what she did. Her friend’s instincts were right on target: Stephanie fell in love with Chicago immediately, and carved a niche for herself as a professional jazz singer.
About three years ago, Stephanie began volunteering at Garden Center Services, a Chicago area service provider for people with developmental disabilities. She later began to teach music classes there. Veteran Imagination Workshop member Andy Torres lives at one of Garden Center’s homes, and was the glue that brought Still Point and Stephanie together! Andy and Lisa have been collaborating on doing workshops together at Garden Center, and one day when Lisa was meeting with him, they attended one of the sing-alongs that Stephanie has been leading there. Stephanie and Lisa talked at length that day, and Stephanie was eventually asked to Facilitate Still Point’s new program with L’Arche Chicago. She had her first session with the class on Monday, February 23.
Stephanie’s philosophy on Facilitating for people with developmental disabilities is clearly and emphatically in line with Still Point’s mission and vision, starting with her assertion that people with disabilities are “100% people.” This sounds painfully obvious, yet those who work with this population know how truly marginalized persons with D.D. are in our society. Stephanie asserts that this segmenting of the population results in a huge loss for the community at large. She appreciates the great capacity for joy and the ability to slow down and live in the present moment which she observes in her students at Garden Center. Her approach is to discover - and celebrate - what each individual can do, because everyone has some unique skill or quality to share. Engaging in the process of getting to know each participant on his or her own terms, and giving each person a chance to shine, has been tremendously rewarding for Stephanie.
She reflects on the “deep kind of joy” she experiences when a client does something that no one knew he or she could do. When discussing the new group at L’Arche, she expressed anticipation and excitement: “I can’t wait to see what we put together!”
It is with deep appreciation and great joy that we welcome Stephanie Browning to Still Point Theatre Collective.
Jazz vocalist and Still Point Program Facilitator Stephanie Browning, performing at the Green Mill