Mount Saint Vincent University’s Spring 2023 Convocation will have a special artistic touch thanks to the talents of Megan Pegg. Megan, who will graduate from the MountAbility program on Thursday, May 18, was entrusted with the task of designing special stoles to be worn over the shoulders of MountAbility program graduates to symbolize their accomplishment.

Megan’s artistic journey

Megan’s love for the arts began in 2009 when she began volunteering with Team Possibles, an art program organized by the Halifax NS Down Syndrome Society led by renowned artist Renee Forrestall. Needle felting quickly became Megan’s favourite medium, allowing her to fully express her artistic ability through its texture and vibrant colours.

“What I love about felting is the texture and the brightness of the colours. I found that felting as a medium allowed me to fully express my artistic ability,” said Megan.

Discovering MountAbility

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Megan hasn’t allowed her disability to hold her back. She discovered the MountAbility program through a friend, and she saw it as an exciting opportunity to continue her educational journey. “This program allowed me to do a participatory audit in a variety of courses at the Mount,” Megan shared.

The MountAbility program has played a significant role in creating opportunities for students like Megan. It provides the opportunity to explore a wide range of subjects like Arts, Science, Professional Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies. The program’s main goal is to eliminate obstacles and create an inclusive learning environment where everyone can reach their full potential.

MountAbility stoles

After the first MountAbility students graduated last Spring, there was a desire to have them wear something special over their shoulders during the ceremony in place of academic hoods. To address this, the idea of incorporating a stole into the graduation attire was created. Given Megan’s expertise and artistic skills, Dr. Cornelia Schneider, a professor in the Faculty of Education at MSVU, approached her with the idea. Megan gladly embraced the opportunity.

In creating the stoles, Megan took the time to develop a proposal and a few designs to share with the MountAbility committee. Megan drew inspiration from MSVU’s colour scheme and the university’s logo.

“I looked at the colour scheme that MSVU uses (navy, gold, white, green, etc.) and took inspiration from the modernized logo that the university now uses,” she explained. “I created a few different designs based on those colours, and I ended up choosing a very simple design that would be versatile for many years to come.”

Making the stoles

Megan carefully created the stoles by felting the design onto a wool blanket. She wanted to make sure the stoles represented the graduates’ diverse disciplines and personalities, so she chose vibrant colours and intricate patterns.

“First, I took a wool blanket to use for the backing and cut it into the size of the sashes. Then I stencilled out the design of the stole. I chose my colours of wool and then began the process of felting that wool into the body of the stole. Once the design was completely felted onto the backing, I did something that is called wet felting. Wet felting is the process of wetting the piece with water and soap, which helps to tighten the fibres of the design into the backing. After the stoles were rinsed and dried, they were ready to be worn!” Megan explained.

In addition to the stoles, Megan also made five pins that represents various aspects of the MountAbility program and the disability community. “I wanted to add the pins as a way for graduates to customize their graduation stole to their tastes and what they want to show off,” explained Megan.

Explaining each of the five pins created to accompany the stoles, Megan said, “The two blue pins (MA and MountAbility) were designed by Sarah Paynter, and they represent the MountAbility program. The three flag pins are different disability flags. The yellow, white, and gold flag is the Disability Flag of the United Nations, created by Valencian dancer Eros Recio in 2017. The ‘Zigzag’ Disability Pride Flag represents various disabilities, with each colour symbolizing different aspects. The softer flag, updated in 2021 with softer colours, aims to be more accessible to those with visual impairments.”

Reflection and future plans

Megan’s exceptional artistic talent and determination perfectly embody the MSVU values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Reflecting on her experience with the MountAbility program, Megan shared, “My experience with the MountAbility program has been very positive. The program allowed me to participate in learning at the university level and tailor my learning experience to my strengths, which helped me thrive academically.”

Since she first picked up needle felting, Megan’s artistic talents have flourished. Her work has been showcased for several years in the Annual Mount Community Show at the MSVU Art Gallery. Her artistic abilities have extended beyond needle felting to other forms such as drawing, painting and photography.

After graduation, Megan’s goal is to continue developing as an artist and pursue her dream of having a solo art show. She added, “MountAbility and MSVU has been a wonderful period in my life. Even though I am graduating, I plan on continuing to submit my art to the Mount Community Show as an alumnus. Keep an eye out!”

Congratulations to Megan, an artist and lifelong learner whose beautiful stoles will continue to adorn future MountAbility graduates for years to come!