A trip down memory lane to Art Access
I got nothing tonight, but I figured I should try to update more regularly.
It was my first day back at work following a week off to play “real writer.” I managed to get a lot of things taken care of over the week, most notably realizing that I had more done for this CBS application than previously thought. But I did get to spend some time down at the Art Access gallery today.
Art Access has a special place in my heart. My mother had a big hand in the gallery when I was a child. I feel like so many of my formative memories are back in that old location on Pierpont Avenue, the one where the guy killed like most of his family … right where my mother’s desk eventually sat. That location with the community garden, the art galleries up and down the building, the slightly uneven floors. My first exposure to nude art was in that gallery, a series of beautiful black and white photographs taken by a man with a disability. That was when I came to understand that the gallery was for artists with disabilities, a place for them to share and celebrate their work. I took my friend down there and remember how offended she was by the images of the bodies and she told me it was porn. (Granted, we’re all of … ten?) I told her what my mother had told me, that porn was about objectifying and this was about beauty. She didn’t get it.
Art Access, for those of you who do not know, is part of the Very Special Arts project. But, people in Utah thought “Very Special Arts” could be expanded in different ways, so they changed the name to Art Access. In doing so, the gallery became an intersection of celebration. A place where visual and written art was shared by people with disabilities, by women, by people of color, refugees, and the queer community. A place where these groups of people would not be turned away. Where they would be treated as equals.
Today, I took a group of consumers down to see the gallery. We’re doing a photography class where I work and when I mentioned the gallery, all of their eyes lit up. So we set it up, went down and they got to see art created by, well, people like them. For the first time in their lives, art, high art, was accessible. I walked around with one of the women, explaining oil paintings, and we looked closely at the artwork and the color and talked about mediums and textures and it was the first time I’d ever really connected to her on a human level. Art. Creativity. That which brings us all together.
Suddenly I was ten years old again, walking the walls of the gallery, staring at photographs and paintings. Watching the acting troupe who used the space put together stories of what it was like to be disabled. Actors in chairs, actors with CP, actors who were deaf, all interacting among paintings and photographs created by people like them.
I grew up in a family with disability, but I think my understanding of equality came not from the ADA fight being my formative years. It came from that gallery, those moments. I went back there today, as I will many times over the next couple of months. See, I’m lucky enough to be participating in a writing workshop sponsored by Art Access. They are reaching out to Utah’s Queer Community, asking for our voices, and bringing them together with visual art.
Stay tuned, my friends. Stay tuned.
Guess I had more going tonight than I thought.