National Portrait Gallery / Disability Futures Fund
Professor Riva is a painter born with spina bifida, reinvents “socially challenged” bodies with often fantastic images. John Lee Clark, deaf-blind poet, is a leader of the Protactile movement, a language that communicates through touch. Tourmaline is a filmmaker whose work explores the “capacity” of black queer / trans social life “to have an impact on the world”.
Here are some of the artists from the inaugural class of future disability scholarship holders, a new initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon and Ford foundations (both donors to NPR). The 20 artists will each receive an unrestricted grant of $ 50,000. Fellows work in a variety of disciplines including architecture, dance, multimedia, and journalism.
You could call this initiative part of a calculation within the Ford Foundation. Darren Walker, its president, was frank in a blog 2016 Publish when he said that the Foundation had not considered “people with disabilities in our broader discussions on inequality” and promised to “correct a problem we had not solved”.
The learning curve was steep, according to Margaret Morton, Director of Creativity and Free Expression at Ford. She says that while the Disability Futures Fellows are part of a larger goal of “piercing the veil of who matters,” they took about a year to listen and research what would benefit practitioners the most. disabled.
“We really didn’t have the language or the tools we needed to engage with this community,” Morton says. So they formed a group of about 60 counselors, many of whom were disabled practitioners themselves. Among the lessons learned: it is better to say “disabled” than “disabled”. “Access” doesn’t just mean building a ramp. They also relied on this group for nominations.
“We are truly indebted to this process which was not top down but came from the community itself,” she says.
For his colleague Rodney Evans, the best part of the Ford / Mellon initiative is “no strings attached”. Evans is a filmmaker whose work includes the documentary Vision Portraits. He says the unrestricted grant allows him and the other recipients to “refine our craft as we see fit.”
While one in four in the United States adults living with a disability, a 2019 study by the organization RespectAbility found that 75% of philanthropists and nonprofits said they wanted to include people with disabilities in their work, but were unsure how. Evans thinks this fraternity could be a “watershed moment”.
“Perhaps this is proof that disability has now officially entered the conversation about diversity and inclusion,” he says. “And the funders sort of understand that and get down to business.”
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