The wellness revolution seems to be making inroads everywhere, but there are some populations who are often left out, including people with disabilities.
The nonprofit Open Up, which is moving into a new studio at 3711 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, is reaching out to expand access to yoga, mindfulness and movement programs, and even improv classes. The organization worked with neighbors Desmone Architects to design the space.
Open Up began in 2014 by mostly serving schools, Pittsburgh Public in particular.
“Some of our students started to get a little older and wanted to practice with friends in the community,” says Open Up Executive Director Marissa Vogel. “And they wanted to get outside of the school setting. So, we listened to them and started having some classes with community partners like the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Children’s Museum — all over the place, and also in some fitness and yoga studios in the area.”
Open Up also launched a teacher training program, with 12-15 people participating and half of them living with disabilities.
“We have teachers that are blind, have Down’s Syndrome, veterans with mental health needs, people with physical disabilities,” says Vogel. “And we have a strong community of people with autism.”
Recently, they held a class of seniors whose main language is American Sign Language.
“We are working to present classes to people in their primary language,” says Vogel.
Improv acting classes have proved particularly popular, even when conducted online during the pandemic.
“We do a lot of kids and family improv game time,” says Vogel. “I had led a club online for improv and it was a lot of young adults, experiencing isolation from Covid, and wanting to get away from the seriousness. It’s creative storytelling, working as a team to come up with an idea — expressing your emotions in really over-the-top ways, to get people out of their heads and interacting with a wider community.”
The grand opening weekend taking place Aug. 20-22 will feature classes, games, crafts, live music and raffle prizes. Masks are required for adults regardless of vaccination status.
Classes are open for registration now.
“We try to keep everything lighthearted and social,” says Vogel. “We have games, classes and interactive theater classes. We’ve partnered with Arcade Comedy Theater in the past.”
Open Up receives support from UPMC, Lululemon and individual donors. They have 12 board members and eight people on staff.
“We are in the middle of a studio membership campaign,” says Vogel. “We’re offering unlimited membership for all of our classes through the end of 2021. Donate $200 and you become a studio member.”