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Mixed media collage portrait in charcoal 2010 by Riva Lehrer by Alison Bechdel, author of Dikes to watch comic book and memoirs Fun house and Are you my mother?

National Portrait Gallery / Disability Futures Fund


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National Portrait Gallery / Disability Futures Fund

Mixed media collage portrait in charcoal 2010 by Riva Lehrer by Alison Bechdel, author of Dikes to watch comic book and memoirs Fun house and Are you my mother?

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.

Back Power Naps, 2019, is an elaborate arrangement of plush beds and ottomans in a spacious theater and black box by interdisciplinary artist Navild Acosta. “The deliberate fragmentation of restorative sleep patterns has been used to subjugate and extract the work of enslaved people …” writes Acosta. And today, “a state of constant fatigue is used to break our will”.

Da Ping Luo / Performance Space New York / Cultural Council


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Da Ping Luo / Performance Space New York / Cultural Council

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.

The sound of obsession is a large 2020 vinyl print filled with hand drawn “P’s” by Christine Sun Kim. “When people get obsessed with something, they come back to it over and over in their minds,” Kim writes. “There is a rhythm. Over time, the obsession accelerates, represented by the decrease in the distance of the p’s. Finally, in the end, the p’s are cluttered and your mind races without stopping.”

Peter Harris Studio / MIT List Visual Arts Center / Cultural Counsel


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Peter Harris Studio / MIT List Visual Arts Center / Cultural Counsel

“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.”

Tourmaline 2017 short film The Atlantic is a sea of ​​bones follows the interpreter Egypt LaBeija in the 80s, 90s and 2000s in New York.

Cultural advice


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Cultural advice

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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