“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” today we celebrate Juneteenth to mark the 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States.
On another topic, one of the many compelling sessions I attended this past week at the Americans for the Arts conference in Denver, was “Artists with Disabilities on Creating an Equitable, Accessible Tomorrow.” The speakers included Esther Grimm (of 3Arts) John McEwen (of New Jersey Theatre Alliance), Barak ade Soleil, and Judith Smith (of AXIS Dance Company).
Members of the panel encouraged us to think well beyond accessibility and the removal of physical barriers required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to consider the entire artistic experience from the perspective of an audience member as well as art maker. The discussion brought to mind a friend’s experience attending a Broadway play. Yes, there was an accessible entrance, but it required navigating her wheelchair down an alley strewn with trash to get in the door. The speakers also expressed frustration at talk of being left out of equity and inclusion conversations. The point being was not to diminish the critical issues of race and gender, but that there needs to be an intentional effort to make sure the community of artists and patrons who live with a disability do not continue to be marginalized.
I was excited to learn about the work of young fashion designer Camila Chiriboga, who has developed a line of safe and attractive apparel for people who are blind. It was inspiring to hear about the collaborations that led to the final products.
Other artists featured at the conference create work that focuses on immigration and the plight of people crossing the border between the United States and Mexico. In a time when families are being wrenched apart, the work of Sol Guy (border crossing) and Tanya Aguiñiga (Art Made Between Opposite Sides) are not only visually stunning, but offer unique ways to make connections and gather information. For those of you interested in raising your voice for immigrant children and families, this Slate Article includes a list of resources.
P.S. Our hearts are with the merchants, artists, and residents of Ellicott City. If you want to help, you can make a donation through the Howard County Arts Council Re-CREATE: Ellicott City Artist Relief Fund.