Art Beyond Sight cultivates and grows a community of caring through collaborative partnerships, innovative programming, and far-ranging services and resources that include:
Education and Career Development
Art and Disability Institute (ADI)
The ABS Art and Disability Institute (ADI) is a critical study, studio, and professional development program designed to give visual artists, curators, art historians, and critics who self-identify as having disabilities or whose work engages with disability themes the tools to articulate, contextualize and actively develop ideas and remove barriers in order to reach their full creative and professional potential.
ADI strives to give artists and arts professionals choice and intentionality about what role, if any, disability plays in their work and its place in the critical conversation of contemporary art.
ADI intends to amplify the visual arts perspective in the dialogue around disability and the arts, and to position our participants, community and research at the leading edge of this conversation. Through amplifying the conversation about contemporary art and disability, taking it to a broader audience, and creating a central repository for resources and research, ADI proposes to help move all aspects of the art world — commercial galleries, museum collections, curation, critique, historical study, employment, education, and audience engagement — in a more inclusive direction.
Lab For Learning (L4L) – Direct Service
L4L is a hands-on, arts-and-culture-focused multidisciplinary educational program that brings multimodal curricula that addresses the development of independent living skills and future job employment preparation through engagement in the arts to students with disabilities throughout New York City.
The program aims to deliver 8-16 weekly sessions, 40 to 50 minutes in length with each classroom throughout the academic year. While doing this, L4L aims to foster collaboration with a multitude of cultural groups and museums in NYC to promote social integration and accessibility to the arts for disabled students. Throughout the sessions, students actively participate in art- and music-related activities that foster artistic exposure, enrichment and education, while also promoting expanded core curriculum goals in independent living skills, social skills building, self-concept development and self-advocacy through engagement in art and culture.
L4L at ABS tailors the curricula delivered to each classroom based on individual teacher’s suggestions aimed to address the most pertinent Expanded Core Curriculum goals for each age group and classroom. Adaptations to each individual lesson plan are made to accommodate needs and limitations of each classroom’s particular demographic. Each curriculum consists of a variety of lesson plans developed by experienced educators and therapists that aim to address a specific skill each lesson. Assessments and baseline data are collected during the first session and progress results are measured through final evaluations at the program’s end. The 3 curricula include a mix of the 4 learning themes types: (1) fashion; (2) sustainability and food culture; (3) self-presentation and public speaking; and (4) teamwork.
Careers in the Arts Toolkit: Increasing Employment Opportunities in the Arts for People with Disabilities
ABS was recently awarded a cooperative agreement by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to create the Careers in the Arts Toolkit. This online resource, to be housed on the NEA website at arts.gov, will be developed for job seekers and employers to help reduce barriers to careers in the arts for people with disabilities. The NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.
The Careers in the Arts Toolkit will feature materials to assist artists and arts workers with disabilities in their career development and build capacity within arts organizations, arts service organizations, and the disability employment sector to better serve this constituency. Materials will advance business and marketing skills, feature best practices and success stories, and offer artistic discipline-specific guidance for recruiting and accommodating artists and arts workers with disabilities. The toolkit will be launched in 2018 on the NEA’s website.
When the Careers in the Arts Toolkit becomes a reality it holds the potential to make a significant and lasting contribution in bringing greater and better opportunities to people with disabilities in the area of employment in the arts not only in New York City but the nation and the world.
Disability and Inclusion: Resources for Museum Studies Programs Website
This initiative is designed to dramatically enhance how museum studies programs and museum professionals address disability and inclusion through the development and dissemination of a resource bank of articles, videos, photos, case studies, and links that educators can use to infuse their existing courses and to promote professional practices that are responsive to stakeholders with disabilities.
The materials on the website are designed to help current and future museum professionals — curators, designers, educators, managers — learn to create accessible programs and exhibits for all visitors. They are organized into six modules: topic introduction, questions to guide learning in the module, activities for possible assignments, resource bank of additional readings and useful websites, and module-specific case studies.
Access and Inclusion Advocacy
With a well-established history of partnering on access initiatives with scientific, service, educational, cultural, disability and government entities — such as the New York City (NYC) Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), the White House, World Heritage Fund, the United Nations and other similar organizations that serve and advocate for people with disabilities worldwide — ABS takes pride in our ability to develop, foster and nurture collaborations and partnerships in order to address the diverse needs and preferences of people with disabilities. Further, our collaborations with inclusion leaders such as GLAAD have broadened our focus on full inclusion. Drawing from their success in accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ and Trans* community, ABS has deepened our expertise around equity and opportunity for people with disabilities.
Community Building, Networking & Resource Sharing
ABS is well connected at the upper level reaches of major cultural institutions; has counseled museums, concert halls, Broadway theatres and producers, and television producers; and actively serves on steering committees including DanceNYC (theatre and dance), Disability Arts NYC Task Force (DANT) and the Museum Access Consortium. We also are proud of our impactful K-12 efforts in educational and transition skills, including our nationally recognized Lab For Learning program, as well as education, employment and service initiatives with organizations like the City University of New York (CUNY) and the NYC Board of Education. Further, we enjoy a strong working relationship with the New York City agencies mentioned above, serving as a trusted collaborator in helping to successfully establish, coordinate and grow citywide disability events, including the Disability Pride Parade and Festival (2015 to present) and October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (2008 to present). Through Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month (October), an annual international initiative with 200+ partners, ABS promotes art by and for people with disabilities. This October will reprise the theme of training and employment.
ABS supports museums, theatres, performing arts centers, heritage sites and other cultural venues as they work toward making their institutions more welcoming to people with disabilities. We serve them through audience outreach and development, onsite team-teaching, training, consulting and development of multimedia resources. Further, we serve the broader cultural accessibility field through presentations at conferences on education, museum practice, cultural accessibility and technology. By emphasizing superior customer service and multi-modal universal design for learning as the core to high-level education for museums, heritage sites and other cultural venues, we help foster greater capacity for engagement with broader, more diverse audiences.
Another area of concentration is ABS’s focus on facilitating community building to connect audiences with disabilities and the organizations that serve them, with museums and other cultural and recreational institutions. ABS has worked closely with NYC government agencies, including the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and the Department of Cultural Affairs, in both active and advisory roles. For example, in recent years we have been the lynchpin organization in bringing together cultural and recreational entities to participate in NYC’s official celebrations of Disability Pride and the Americans with Disabilities Act. More broadly, the ABS-facilitated online platform Project Access for All provides a forum for direct and unmediated conversation and information sharing among cultural providers and diverse audiences, which takes place at both a hyper-local and a national scale.
Cultural Participation for All
This is a voluntary certification program to expand cross-impairment accessibility and engagement at museums, cultural heritage and commemorative sites, libraries, performing arts and entertainment venues and sports arenas. It will establish acceptable standards for cross-impairment accessibility and grant a readily identifiable certification mark to cultural institutions that have met the standards. The display of the cultural accessibility certification mark and its associated public outreach programming will assure potential visitors of the availability and quality of specific accessibility services. It will also assist tour operators, administrators for education, rehabilitation, therapeutic, senior centers, and other cultural interest groups in planning enjoyable and enriching experiences for their constituents. This program would incentivize cultural institutions to expand their accessibility services, thereby gaining a wider audience and contributing to greater inclusivity.
The proposed initiative is based on the pioneering efforts of ABS to make all forms of culture accessible to persons with disabilities. It will be strengthened by ABS’s nearly 30 years of shared training and resource materials, and ABS’s decades long collaborative relationships with disability advocacy organizations and other cultural access providers internationally.
Such a standard acknowledges the need for cross-impairment or “multisensory” accessibility across five cognitive dimensions as adapted from engineer Ian Ford’s concept of “Deep Accessibility”: Mobility, the ability to physically get to a site and move around within it; Presence, the sense of being present in a space without unnecessary distractions or obstacles to thought and communication; Orientation, the sense of being able to intuitively orient oneself in a space and securely navigate through it; Communication, the ability to understand and make oneself understood; Engagement, the ability to control one’s own experience and level of participation.
The components of this standard and the accompanying educational and training resources for cultural site administrators, designers, and staff members who directly interact with the public, will be formulated by an advisory body composed of leading academics and professionals in the fields of accessibility, museum studies, and cultural heritage as well as stakeholders and advocates in the international community of persons with disabilities and their families. Institutions that receive certification for having met this cultural accessibility standard will have demonstrated their ability to offer cultural experiences that resonate for people of all physical and cognitive capabilities.
Re-envisioning Arts Education (REA)
With a well-established history of partnering on access initiatives with scientific, service, educational, the project incorporates the thought leadership and techniques of artists who are blind or have low vision. The project will take place in a geographical hub and feature a team consisting of an artist who is blind or has low vision and one or more museum or community based art instructors. Instructional content, including specialized techniques, will be produced using the information learned from the resident artist.
Drawing on key methods and techniques identified during the artist conversations, an art instructor will work with an artist and project director to create a framework for the instructional modules. Activities will develop skills that correspond to techniques discussed with the artist, including maximizing the senses, leveraging the mind’s eye and depicting the unseen. Modules’ content will focus on subject selection, mental organization of composition, color theory, foreground/background and light/shadow. Art instructor will collaborate with artist and hub museum/school to pilot activities to modify and refine methods.
With respect to audience development, the hub city team of artist, instructor and partner institution educator will launch theory into practice through studio workshops and mentorships. Art instructor will work closely with the hub museum to offer workshops for teens and older adults using the modules they will develop. Through the workshops, art instructor will hone the artist’s techniques, while teens and older adults will have access to a new interpretive outlet. Workshops will be held at schools and museums. Hub artists will work with partnering schools/museums to offer classes to aspiring artists. The hub artist will mentor aspiring artists, demonstrate his/her individual style and methods and share personal pathways in the visual arts.
The instructional studio modules are the core content for the online studio. The modules are based on steps the artist uses when painting. Their techniques maximize the sense of touch, “mind’s eye” perspective and skill at depicting the unseen world. Modules’ content will focus on subject selection, mental organization of composition, color theory, foreground/background and light/shadow. The site will feature video interviews of the hub artists. The virtual gallery will feature art of hub and aspiring artists and students’ work.
Next Generation Pride Engagement & Celebration
Next Generation Disability Pride Parade & Festival: Arts and Cultural, Fashion and Design, Entertainment, Libraries, Sports and Recreation
With a well-established history of partnering on access initiatives with scientific, service, educational ABS is acting on its firm commitment to bridge for the next generation of people with disabilities the employment gap in the arts and culture sector. We are doing this through planned partnerships with a network of nonprofit organizations that provides a lifespan of services for children and adults with disabilities.
Creating a community that fosters and shares pride and a sense of collaborative unity is one of this initiative’s paramount aims. Produced by ABS’s Lab For Learning staff, students, alumni and partners, the parade and festival seeks to actively engage kids with disabilities, the next generation of athletes, audiences, enthusiasts, arts and culture creators and performers, fashionistas, models, designers, entertainment industry professionals, librarians, and sports and recreation workers. The Disability Pride Parade, founded by jazz pianist Mike Le Donne as an annual event, was inspired by his daughter, Mary, who has a disability. We envision The Next Generation Pride Festival to be much like a “Medieval Festival” with roaming performers, mentors and fun where we can all come together — especially young people with and without disabilities — to celebrate our numbers and amplify our messages of pride, support, and unity. We aim to elevate existing organizations and advocacy groups by bringing them together with the next generation of activists and advocates who will champion the cause of disability access and inclusion for people of all abilities.
Creating More Inclusive Communities: Share Your Knowledge & Success with Community of Stakeholders
Our collaborators are turning concepts into curricula and creating content for best practices and educational templates that can be used effectively in different learning environments focusing on educational tools and resources for empowering and educating people with disabilities for employment in the visual arts.
Our shared knowledge ranges from a wide array of topics, focusing on critical study, onsite studio training, and in and out of classroom learning. ABS gathers and shares key findings and analysis from our network of arts and culture and other key stakeholders in the realms of education, museum access, visual arts, and disability access and inclusion. It does so through reports, briefs, scholarly contributions, success stories, and other literature and containing best practices for the development, implementation and evaluation of toolkits and education models.