3. Identity, Disclosure, and Representation in the Arts

Disabled Culture, Pride & the Affect it Has on Art

I used to be a full time career counselor and project manager for students with disabilities. I noticed that before students took disability studies classes, they were usually very difficult to work with - as in, not confident, low self esteem ("but who would want to hire MEEEEE?") and so forth. After they took a disability studies class, they had a different attitude. Pride was flowing in them. They saw disability as an asset, not a liability.

As an artist, I've seen this in my own work. When I write, paint or take photos from my own disabled experience, I have an edge that mainstream simply doesn't have. All of us with disabilities have this. The trick is to cultivate it, I think - to really flesh out exactly what it is that we see, hear, think, experience in our own ways. To NOT do the sad and tired "disability doesn't define me", but to embrace disability and the maverick perspectives that we naturally have.

The arts can be really supportive of that - but it can also try and squeeze us into boxes. Tell us to paint, write, draw, dance this and this way. But we can't DO that to really tap into who we are as disabled individuals - we lose our power.

Once we know the techniques (because that is also important), I think encouragement to tap into the disabled perspective would be huge. HUGE. Problem is? This is all really new. People still don't think that having a disability is a good thing. People still haven't embraced the concept that this is a way of being that represents a slice of humanity and gives us a completely different perspective.

So. Development of disability pride. Recognition of disability being an asset. Understanding how to tune in to that. Applying that to one's art. That, to me would be something amazing.

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Idea No. 25