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Regeneration Panel: a public conversation on disability art, activism, and access

Tuesday, October 16, 6:00 PM
Location:
Gallery 400
400 S. Peoria St.

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Participants: Mike Ervin, Riva Lehrer, Andy Slater, Barak adé Soleil and Sky Cubacub Moderator Carrie Sandahl.

 

Regeneration is a group conversation that explores the emergence of the disability art and culture movement in Chicago and its development over the past thirty years. Each panelist represents a specific generation and strand in the movement with insights on how unique aesthetic choices respond to their individual and socio-political environments. Additionally, these panelists are leaders in their respective fields, taking on roles of activist, curator, teacher, mentor, and advocate across the professional, academic, and activist ecologies.

Together with moderator Carrie Sandahl, these five artists discuss their approach to art making and how their activism has impacted their art practice and contributed to the development of Chicago’s international reputation as an innovative hub of disability art and culture.

 

Andy Slater

Andy Slater is a legally blind musician, sound artist, author, and performer. His sonic work has always been informed by blindness but it wasn’t until recently that he introduced the subject of disability into his work. In 2016, after an unsuccessful search for blind noisemakers, Andy founded the Society of Visually Impaired Sound Artists (SoVISA), a group advocating for the inclusion of sound art in art education for the blind as well as museums and institutions.

Andy describes his sonic work as “art made because of his disability.” Due to his visual impairment, his ears function as navigation, safety, and problem solving tools. Because of this, he listens with great detail and focus, making it hard not to listen critically.

 

For more than two decades, Barak adé Soleil has charted an expansive career as an artist, making dance, theatre and performance art. Internationally noted and award-winning, Barak’s creative practice draws on traditions of the African diaspora, queerness, postmodernism and disability aesthetics; engaging distinct communities across the US, Canada, Europe, South America and West Africa. Barak is currently based in Chicago, but continues to work globally.

 

For over three decades Riva Lehrer has been integral to disability arts and culture in Chicago. A painter, curator and write, she came to the city in 1982 to study ant the School of the Art Institute. Lehrer’s work features self-exploration and understanding in a series of self-portraits, as well as in other series such as The Risk Pictures, which explores the relationship between artist and subject. Lehrer’s prolific bodies of work, is a testament to the extensive and powerful history of disability culture and activism in Chicago.

 

The creator of Rebirth Garments and co-founder of the Radical Visibility Collective, Sky Cubacub makes garments that are meant to be seen. Challenging the mainstream standards of beauty, Rebirth Garments collections are debuted at fashion shows that double as fully inclusive dance parties.

 

Andy Slater is a legally blind musician, sound artist, author, and performer. His sonic work has always been informed by blindness but it wasn’t until recently that he introduced the subject of disability into his work. In 2016, after an unsuccessful search for blind noisemakers, Andy founded the Society of Visually Impaired Sound Artists (SoVISA), a group advocating for the inclusion of sound art in art education for the blind as well as museums and institutions.

Andy describes his sonic work as “art made because of his disability.” Due to his visual impairment, his ears function as navigation, safety, and problem solving tools. Because of this, he listens with great detail and focus, making it hard not to listen critically.

 

Mike Ervin is a writer and disability rights activist living in Chicago. His play The History of Bowling was produced through the Midwest to the West Coast over the last 20 years. Mike is a founding member of the Chicago chapter of the direct action disability rights organization ADAPT. He is proud to have been arrested over a dozen times for civil disobedience. Mike is also founder of Jerry’s Orphans, which organized annual protests against the Jerry Lewis telethon.

Since 1992, Mike has directed the Access Project, a comprehensive initiative to make live theater accessible for people with disabilities, at Remains Theatre and Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

 

Carrie Sandahl is Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Disability and Human Development. She directs Chicago’s Bodies of Work, an organization that supports the development of disability arts and culture, through festivals, advocacy, and an artist residency program. Her research and creative activity focus on disability identity in live performance and film. Sandahl’s publications include a co-edited an anthology, Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance, which garnered the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s award for Outstanding Book in Theatre Practice and Pedagogy (2006). Sandahl frequently travels nationally and internationally to speak about her research and arts advocacy initiatives, most recently delivering a keynote address at the 2017 European Society for Disability Research at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Currently, Carrie is collaborating on a documentary, Code of the Freaks, a critique of disability representations in cinema, which will premiere in 2018.