Kingston Circus Arts needs community support during pandemic

Kingston Circus Arts performance October 2020 – Electric Circuits at the Isabel Bader. L to R: Heili Kopamees, Carolyn Shelley, Erin Ball, Andrea Lewis, Jasmine Woboditsh. Photo by David Simon.

Kingston Circus Arts, a circus arts performance and teaching organization, is struggling greatly due to the pandemic and the second lockdown imposed by the Ontario government.

Erin Ball, who founded of Kingston Circus Arts (KCA) in 2015, strives to welcome and teach as many people as possible in KCA’s access-centered space that prioritizes inclusion. At KCA, they strongly believe that circus can be for everyone. They teach circus arts to bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages and situations, and welcome the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

Ball has faced many challenges herself, since an accident in 2014 caused her to have both lower legs amputated. She shares her story, and her journey back to the ring, in a CBC video from 2015.

“Erin was forced to close the doors to Kingston Circus Arts for almost six months during the first wave shutdown,” stated Hope Hanson, part of the KCA team. “As a small business owner, she did not qualify for any of the government assistance programs, and the bills stacked up quickly. Unfortunately, her landlord has refused any rent relief that was introduced by the provincial government.”

KCA was able to partially open as the pandemic restrictions eased over the summer, though it was still not business as usual. Class sizes were limited to allow for physical distancing and strict COVID-19 safety protocols were enforced.  Specialized cleaning supplies had to be purchased, including an aerial fabric cleaning machine. The costs were not covered by any provincial relief programs because these supplies were not considered personal protective equipment (PPE), Hanson explained..

As part of her business model, Ball offers coaching courses, workshops, and consultations to increase inclusivity and accessibility for the disability community. She also offers her own workshops, lessons, and camps for the disability community, along with scholarships for individuals in the QTBIPOC community and the disability community. When not in pandemic lockdown, she runs an annual week-long circus camp for people with amputations.

She has also created a workshop/manual called Flying Footless, for coaches who want to increase access and inclusion, and understand how to break down some of the inherent ableism in circus.

To help support this unique business, a GoFundMe has been sent up to provide funds for KCA’s ongoing expenses.

“The vast majority of the money will go to covering the cost of rent and lost income from smaller class sizes,” Hanson shared with Kingstonist. “It will be possible to re-open when we are permitted to exercise indoors again, though the physical distancing requirements will mean smaller class sizes.  ‘Business as usual’ will only return when more people can train at once, inside the studio.”

“It is time for our community to help this amazing individual who has contributed so greatly to Kingston,” Hanson continued. “The pandemic has been hard for everyone, in a million different ways. The survival of Kingston Circus Arts will add strength to our rebuilding as a city and as a community. Please consider making a donation to help KCA survive the pandemic.  When we eventually emerge from these uncertain times, KCA will be there for us.”

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