Art Resources for People with Disabilities
Artists with disabilities use their craft to transcend stereotypes and communicate their vision with the world.
Art is a creative tool used for self-expression and overcoming adversity. Many artists create artwork to reflect their lived experience. Artists within the disabled community work adamantly to bring visibility to their artistic talent. This may mean editing a film, writing a book, or creating a choreographed dance. Living with a physical or cognitive disability, does not limit one from producing astonishing artwork.
For example, Simi Linton’s film, Invitation to Dance beautifully addresses disability and movement. Choreographer Heidi Latsky’s The Gimp Project is an enthralling advocacy project involving both disabled and non-disabled dancers. Disability Studies scholar Jessie Male stresses the importance of increasing disability representation in artistic mediums and expanding the dialogue around disability.
“Kris Lenzo, a dancer who is a double amputee, utilizes his body in ways an able-bodied person can not, or wouldn’t think to. His work is expanding the possibilities of performance, because of the body he has now, instead of limiting its scope. When audiences are exposed to different bodies in performance, this helps destigmatize the narratives of people with disabilities.”
Artists use art to transcend stereotypes and communicate their vision with the world. Using NYFA Source, we’ll explore the wide spectrum of performance companies, advocacy groups, and non-profit organizations that support, and ultimately celebrate artists with disabilities.
National Arts and Disability Center at UCLA provides educational resources and training focused on the “inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community.” The NADC Database includes listings of arts programs, creative growth centers and a variety of disability related organizations.
The Kennedy Center – VSA Arts program offers educational resources for artists and teaching artist in the field. Their mission is to promote and provide equality in the arts for people with disabilities. They have affiliates in most of the states in the U.S. and internationally. VSA Arts has an extensive Artist Registry and Professional Development in Art, Education and Disability initiative.
Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts advocates for full inclusion “of artists of color and performers with disabilities at all levels of production in theatre, film, television, and related media.” Learn more about the Advocacy, Consulting & Information Program dedicated to artists with disabilities.
Located in Los Angeles, the Disability Rights Legal Center is a nonprofit organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities. Seek legal assistance using DRLC’s Disability Litigation Program.
New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities works diligently to represent the disabled community and address the immediate needs of people with disabilities in the New York area. They offer a variety of disability-specific resources on their website.
ReelAbilities Film Festival shares the “lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.” Based in New York, the festival presents an array of exemplary films by and about people with disabilities. Submit your film to upcoming ReelAbilities Film Festival.
The Superfest International Disability Film Festival is a showcase of award-winning films held in the San Francisco Bay Area. The juried competition honors the diversity of disability culture. Read about the Superfest film competition and submission process.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, the AXIS Dance Company is a progressive contemporary dance company that choreographs performances with dancers who have disabilities. Sign-up for their Master Classes and Dance Access program.
Dancing Wheels is professional, physically integrated dance company which performs with dancers with and without disabilities. The dance company is located in Cleveland, Ohio. Take a Adult Dance Workshop at Dancing Wheels.
Associated Musicians of Greater New York is a local union dedicated to professional musicians of all genres. The Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund provides monetary grants to disabled musicians who are members of the AFM.
HowlRound is an active online forum for theater artists with disabilities. The latest interactive discussion – Disability in Theater – focused on issues accessibility & inclusion in the industry. Find details to the discussion here. Read HowlRound and contribute to their online journal.
Art Therapy Centers
For many artists, creating art is an restorative activity. Creative Growth Centers serve adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, providing a stimulating environment for artistic instruction, gallery promotion and personal expression. At times artwork created at therapy centers is included in gallery exhibitions, art festivals and museum collection nationwide.
Discover the benefits of Creative Growth Art Centers.
Art therapy centers, like the Fountain House, help individuals with mental illness cultivate their creativity. The goal is to help artists develop their artistic practice and ultimately, showcase their talent. According to Fountain Gallery manager Ariel Willmott, the organization provides an inviting exhibition space for artists living with mental illness that are members of Fountain House.
“We help artists apply to any shows that they are individually interested in submitting to. In addition, we partner with outside organizations to exhibit Fountain House Gallery’s artists work – such as Johnson & Johnson, CITI, Urban Justice Center, Eileen Fisher and more, ” says Ariel.
The resources above aim to inspire people with and without disabilities and empower audiences to view the wide-ranging possibilities of creative expression.
Find more opportunities for artists on NYFA Source, a free searchable database of 12,000+ awards, residencies, and services.
– Glory Edim, Program Associate, Online Resources
Image: Candida Alvarez (Fellow in Graphics ‘86), Nueva York, 1991