Below is the program for an event co-organized by the Disability Visibility Project™ that will take place on September 25, 2016 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California.
Deaf/Disabled Artists: A Conversation
Stories from the Disability Visibility Project™
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
September 25, 2016
Cecile Puretz, Access and Community Engagement Manager, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Co-founder of The Bay Area Arts Access Collective (BAAAC)
Introduction by StoryCorps
Như Tiên Lữ, StoryCorps, Regional Manager, San Francisco StoryBooth
Yosmay del Mazo, StoryCorps, Facilitator, San Francisco StoryBooth
Geraldine Ah-Sue, StoryCorps, Facilitator, San Francisco StoryBooth
Panel Discussion with Deaf and Disabled Artists
Moderator: Alice Wong
Panelists: Patty Berne, Antoine Hunter, Jennifer Justice, Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Topic #1: Community
DVP Story: Maia Scott and Ron Jones (August 14, 2014)
Ron Jones: For instance, you’re blockhead thing to me is the most inspirational theatric performance art I’ve ever witnessed.
Maia Scott: Are you calling me a blockhead?
Ron Jones: No, explain what blockhead is.
[Maia laughs. Ron vocalizes various sounds throughout]
Maia Scott: Blockhead is basically a cube that sits on my head. That has Velcro on it and I can put strange objects on it like batteries and book lights and toilet paper rolls and big springs and anything and create faces. Then the body, of course, becomes the character that goes with each face.
The fun part about the cube is that there are four sides to play with. I love that piece. It’s also very bittersweet. It still lives. It has had a second incarnation now. And it came out of kind of a deep dark place as an artist. As a visually impaired artist who loves vision and color and movement. And it’s often approached after a performance, “Wow, you’re blind. You’re visually impaired and you can do that. You have so much sense of color. And wow, that’s amazing. I’m going to put you on a pedestal that’s so high, you’re going to get a nose bleed.” And then there’s the overweight part and people come up and say, “Whoa, people like you shouldn’t be able to do that.” So, I find that when I do pieces like blockhead, or funny things, or character things, it becomes less about blindness or disability, but more about ability and unity and community and togetherness…
Ron Jones: Yeah, yeah!
Maia Scott: It’s really amazing this San Francisco arts culture that we have. It’s so inclusive. This whole genre of disability art culture feels so rooted here in the Bay area. I’m sure it’s other places as well. It’s part of what drew me up here to work with Theater Unlimited and to allow myself to emerge…
Questions to the panel:
What is unique about the Disability/Deaf arts community here?
What’s your vision for the evolution of our community in terms of movement-building, organizing, and infrastructure?
Topic #2: Creativity and Success
DVP Story: Madelyn Covey and Nick Pagan (September 2, 2014)
Madelyn Covey: I don’t know if you want to talk about this but you do a lot of really great sculpture stuff like making props and making things like that. You also in ceramics frequently make- [giggles]
Nick Pagan: Mr. Boners.
Madelyn Covey: Yeah Mr. Boner character. What’s behind that?
Nick Pagan: The dick with arms, he goes on adventures. Uh, I got inspired from a movie called Superbad. At the end of the credits they show these drawings of dicks with arms, I decided to do one where he goes across time and just does all kinds of outlandish shit.
Madelyn Covey: What kind of stuff have you had Mr. Boner do?
Nick Pagan: I’ve had a hitchhiker boner, I made a super boner which sold really fast. I’ve done a cowboy one where he’s riding one of those horses with … It’s just a head and the stick, I’ve done … Oh my God I’ve done so many … I’ve done the George Foreman.
Madelyn Covey: George Foreman boner?
Nick Pagan: Yeah.
Madelyn Covey: That’s cool.
Nick Pagan: I paid tribute to Joe Frazier, he’s a boxer, he died a couple of months ago, years ago. I made a boner of him. I even made an animation of Mr. Boner.
Madelyn Covey: Oh cool, what does he do in the animation?
Nick Pagan: He just rides across the screen and it says, “Mr. Boner rides again.”
Madelyn Covey: Oh, nice.
Nick Pagan: Oh…I also made a uhhhhh Atari controller boner which it can actually-
Madelyn Covey: It’s a joystick!! [laughs]
Nick Pagan: Yeah, it’s actually a joystick and it’s called the original joystick.
Madelyn Covey: That’s really funny. [laughs] Cool. At Creative Growth we have so many different mediums that you do, do you have a favorite or do you?
Nick Pagan: Yes I do, I have two favorites. I have filmmaking and ceramics.
Madelyn Covey: And um, being at Creative Growth you’re a pretty successful artist, you sell your artwork, you have your drawings on t-shirts that celebrities have bought and stuff like that how does that feel, like?
Nick Pagan: It feels good but when I tell people they’re like, “No, not really. You’re not that famous, I haven’t heard of you.” I’m like, “Because I’m underground man!!” I’m not known yet. Yeah, it feels great.
Madelyn Covey: Did you, when you were younger did you think you’d be a successful artist?
Nick Pagan: No. I actually didn’t like art when I was younger. It was when I was in the hospital, I was admitted to the hospital a lot as a kid. That’s when I started doing art because I was so bored then it just took off from there, I just couldn’t stop.
Questions to the panel:
What inspires your art and what is your creative process like?
As an artist, what does success mean to you?
Topic #3: Risk Taking and Pain
DVP Story: Fran Osborne and Anthony Tusler (June 16, 2016)
Fran: And I think that’s also what’s so great about photography, and what you’ve been doing with photography is it can express things, or it can articulate things very well that you know can’t be expressed in words sometimes.
Anthony: That’s the whole thing with art. Yeah.
Fran: And so, yeah.
Anthony: And that’s where… about disability, and being able to show those things, I mean, that’s the excitement to me, but the frustration as well. Because I always feel like I’m getting close, but I can’t quite get it…that, you know, that… I think art is cruel.
Fran: Yeah, because is it…?
Anthony I think it’s cruel, I really do.
Fran: Is it because…because I think, um, I’m also a painter, too.
Anthony: Oh, I didn’t realize that, oh, ok.
Fran: Yeah, so I’ve been trying to get my painting going again, and it *IS* very difficult. It’s very cruel. That’s a really good way of describing it because you have to dig so deep into something you don’t know what it is…
Fran: And you have to keep going to that place.
Anthony: And letting go, letting go, while you dig. Yeah. It’s very hard.
Fran: You never know whether you’ve got that or not, so all you can do is just do the work, and put it out there…
Questions to the panel:
What are the real-world limits, risks, and painful aspects of creation for you as an artist?
When you ‘dig deep’ in exploration, what do you usually discover about yourself, your collaborators, and life in general?
Topic #4: Accessible Spaces
DVP Story: Jennifer Justice and Alice Wong (May 21, 2016)
Jennifer: I’ve been doing guerilla access my whole life. Grabbing someone to read wall texts to me and first my dad [laughter] and then, my poor dad who really can’t draw a straight line. [laughter] He would read the text to me at the museum and then later on my friends. So I think museums are such hostile spaces for blind people in particular and for disabled people and these conversations are really touchy, pardon the pun, I mean maybe not pun intended. There are very touchy topics because the work is property, you know, and it’s been valued in some cases millions and millions of dollars.
Alice: As a disabled person how should you feel going into a museum? How do you want to feel?
Jennifer: First of all I don’t want to be harassed by anyone. [laughter] I think that’s … I would like that to stop right now, forever. And uh, I would like to see more, I know it would be great to have more museum staff who are disabled people themselves I think that would be a huge help and people of color and people from different, people who are from different walks for life who are, because the museum should feel like it’s for everybody and not just for white people or rich, white people. That would make me feel a lot more comfortable in a museum space. I don’t want things behind glass and you know, and wall texts that are large and also audio description available if you could just like the punch of a button and Braille to be available and different languages to be available and uh…. I would just want it to be more of a community, uh, you know, sort of like a fellowship, I don’t know, like okay; this is my Southern stuff coming in. We used to call the place where we ate dinner after church, the fellowship hall, right? I just want it to be more about fellowship.
Alice: Describe that. Describe that please.
Jennifer: Everybody just comes and then you seat down and eat and everybody is welcome and everybody eats and everybody is served. It’s just a time for people to hangout and be a community together. And it’s not like… It’s like your space, you should feel like it’s your space and not some rich, trustee’s space that you’re just being allowed in you know, “If you’re really good [laughter] you can stay and if you’re not too boisterous. If you don’t touch anything and if you don’t do this or that!” So it shouldn’t feel like that. It should feel more like a community space.
Alice: Well, I think that’s a great challenge for …
Jennifer: For them [laughter]
Questions to the panel:
In what ways are spaces such as museums, galleries, performance venues, studios, and rehearsal spaces, hostile to Deaf/Disabled artists?
How do we demand and create spaces that are accessible and welcoming to all?
ASL Interpreters: Jennifer Mantle and Pilar Marsh
CART Captioner: Audrey Spinka
Audio/Visual for the CJM, David Elinoff
Access and Community Engagement Manager of the CJM, Cecile Puretz
Patty Berne is co-founder / executive director of Sins Invalid (www.sinsinvalid), a disability justice based performance project centralizing disabled artists of color and queer and gender non-conforming artists with disabilities. Berne’s training in clinical psychology focused on trauma and healing for survivors of interpersonal and state violence. Her professional background includes offering mental health support to survivors of violence and advocating for LGBTQI and disability perspectives within the field of reproductive genetic technologies. Berne’s experiences as a Japanese-Haitian queer disabled woman provides grounding for her work creating “liberated zones” for marginalized voices. She is widely recognized for her work to establish the framework and practice of disability justice. Image by Richard Downing courtesy of Sins Invalid.
Antoine Hunter A Bay Area native, Antoine Hunter is an award-winning African-American Deaf and Hard of Hearing choreographer, dancer, dance instructor, actor, speaker, model, producer, poet and Deaf advocate who has performed and hosted workshops throughout the Bay Area and the world including London, Italy, Cuba, Africa, Peru, Paris and Rome to name a few. He teaches dance and ASL in both Hearing and Deaf communities and is the founder and artistic director of Urban Jazz Dance Company since 2007 and the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival since 2012. Image by RJ Muna.
Jennifer Justice is a multi- media artist, educator, and scholar. Her art practice explores the intersections between disability, technology, medicine, and art. Her work has been exhibited at StoreFrontLab and the African American Cultural Center in San Francisco, the Chicago Cultural Center, Zolla/ Lieberman Gallery, and the Birmingham Museum of Art. She is a lecturer in the Practice of Art and Disability Studies minor at UC Berkeley.
Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a Black writer, poet, hip-hop\music lover, community activist and feminist with a physical disability. Founder of Krip-Hop Nation (An international network of disabled Hip-Hop and other musicians.). Leroy currently writing a book on Krip-Hop Nation and his poetry/lyrics book, The Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics has been published in late 2015 by Poetric Matrix. Leroy has a poetry CD, entitled Black Disabled Man with a Big Mouth & A High I.Q. and has put out his second poetry CD entitled The Black Kripple Delivers Krip Love Mixtape. Leroy is a longtime columnist, one of the first columns on race & disability that started in the early 90’s at Poor Magazine in San Francisco. Leroy is one of the leading voices around police brutality and wrongful incarceration of people with disabilities.
About: Disability Visibility Project™ and Alice Wong
Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based night owl, cat lover, and coffee drinker. Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Partnering with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan, Alice is an organizer of an online campaign called #CripTheVote encouraging conversations about disability issues during the 2016 Presidential election. She is also a Staff Research Associate at the Community Living Policy Center, University of California, San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter: @SFdirewolf
For more about the Disability Visibility Project™
About: StoryCorps in San Francisco
From StoryCorps’ About page:
StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
StoryCorps is built on an uncompromising commitment to excellence throughout the organization that includes an intense focus on the collecting, sharing, and preserving of people’s stories; high-quality organizational management; and the care and support of an extraordinary work environment where respect and dignity are paramount.
- The interview session is at the heart of StoryCorps. We treat participants with the utmost respect, care, and dignity.
- StoryCorps maintains a relentless focus on serving a wide diversity of participants.
- StoryCorps is a public service.
Visit StoryCorps in San Francisco at the San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Thursday: 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Saturday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Schedule times and dates may vary and are subject to change. This includes major holidays.
StoryCorps San Francisco: https://storycorps.org/san-francisco/
StoryCorps in San Francisco’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StoryCorpsSF/
About: The Contemporary Jewish Museum
The Contemporary Jewish Museum strives to ensure that its facilities, exhibitions, and programs are accessible, and that all of our visitors feel a sense of welcome, respect, and inclusion. The CJM is proud to support the vibrant Disability arts and cultural community in the Bay Area, and offers a range of programs and resources benefiting a broad diversity of visitors.
About: Bay Area Arts Access Collective (BAAAC)
The Bay Area Arts Access Collective (BAAAC) is a grassroots network dedicated to promoting accessibility in the Bay Area’s arts and cultural spaces. BAAAC is made up of a diverse group of museum professionals, artists with disabilities, disability justice advocates, and educators who are passionate about creating access and equity in the arts. Through community gatherings and professional development workshops, BAAAC facilitates dialogue around different topics of accessibility and inclusion.