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The mission of DisArt is to change perceptions about disability, one work of art at a time. We believe that the creative act can stimulate important, necessary civic conversation and influence cultural change. By celebrating art practices that aim to elevate an understanding of the human condition of disability, we encourage all people, disabled or not, to appreciate the complex identities of those around them. By increasing access to exemplary examples of disability art and culture, DisArt awakens a spirit of ability equality, social inclusion, physical accessibility, community, and a sense of place for those living with disability.
The ultimate test of living in community is found in our willingness to change our minds about one another, in our ability to know each other in better ways. Because it is a unique, multi-sensory form of knowledge, art can allow us to gain an understanding beyond our own immediate experience, that is, to know the world through the perceptions of another. Art that comes from the experience of disability can thus challenge the imagination of a society in ways that bridge our physical and mental differences, obliterate prejudice and stereotypes, and heave us towards community.
Navigating aesthetic and cultural realities can be arduous when it comes to disabilities because we have been socialized to fear physical and mental differences. Ironically, it has often been art itself that has taught us these negative perceptions: bad movies, ignorant artistic depictions of disabilities, and a whole host of cultural actions/inactions have painted a proverbial picture of disability that often smacks of mystery, pity, and confusion. In order to alleviate these historical mistakes, important dialogue must happen between able-bodied and disabled people.
DisArt Festival has been created to help facilitate these important conversations and dialogues.
DisArt is a multi-platform, culture building organization achieving its mission through an international disability art festival in April 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through several world-renowned exhibitions of Disability Arts from all over the world, a film festival, fashion show, cutting-edge dance performances, and other experiential, family-oriented learning opportunities, DisArt Festival 2015 challenged its audiences to reconsider the importance of community, identity, and difference.