Saturday, November 24, 2012

D.A.C.A.C. - Disability Arts and Culture Association of Canada

The national BeyondAccess 2012 gathering in Canmore, Alberta was amazing! A week with professional colleagues with disabilities working across a range of artistic disciplines. Bliss! Lots of hard work. Learnt a lot. Great connections. The gathering was convened and facilitated by Stage-Left Artistic Director Michele Decottignies, along with Alan Shain. (Stage Left commissioned my solo interdisciplinary spoken word show That's so gay! in 2009).

In the mornings we talked about the 40 year history of disability arts and culture practice in Canada, worked towards establishing common ground, and aesthetics.

In the afternoons, one or two people or groups each took turns to present our visual, media, dance, or theatre work. Our artistic decision making processes, and where possible practical workshops, like integrated dance. I presented on media with filmmaker and academic Danielle Peers.

The other participant from the province of BC was Dr. Kirsty Johnston who wrote the groundbreaking book Stage Turns - Canadian Disability Theatre. How Canadian theatre artists are challenging traditional theatre practices and re-imagining disability on stage.

You can see the list of participants online here. Along with the purpose of the event.

On Thursday night we each screened 10 minutes of work, or excerpts from our work in film, dance or theatre. That was a highlight for me to see the stunning professional solo and collaborative work we all do. I went back to my roots and operated as the projectionist as we sourced work from the web, DVD’s and our laptop computers. 

In the evenings, we often shared a meal in one of the lovely hotel suites we were accommodated in, got to know one another, networked and discussed possible future collaborations.

At the conclusion of the gathering we resolved to form D.A.C.A.C. - Disability Arts and Culture Association of Canada. Which will be launched publicly with an online presence in the spring of 2013.

I realized what a rare experience it was for me to have my knowledge, skills, and artistic practice in disability arts valued. Although of course I also work in the arts community generally. Having at times worked in mainstream media organizations as the lone ‘disability voice’ can be a very wearing and at times combative experience when working for policy change to be inclusive of artists with disabilities.

We talked about the importance of sharing our knowledge and skills as senior artists in our local, national, and international communities. To that end upon my return I joined the Board if Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture - who have been trying to entice me to join for some time. I worked for Kickstart 2009- 2010 on their festivals, workshops, Audio Description Program, (Vocal Eye formerly EarSighted) and BC Regional Inclusive Arts Network (BRIAN). Joining the Kickstart Board continues my commitment to a vibrant inclusive arts community in BC and providing professional development opportunities to artists.

Congratulations to Alan Shain who post conference was appointed to the position of Disability Arts Officer with the Canada Council for the Arts, in Ottawa.

We spent a few hours one afternoon in an improvisational dance workshop outside interacting with a standing stone sculpture by local artist Lucie Bause. I volunteered to document the gathering as much as possible in photographs and video, so you can see photos of dance, the gathering participants, and beautiful Canmore on my Integrial Media facebook page. I was particularly impressed by the collaborative dance work and choreography IDANCE, Propeller Dance, and Frank Hull are doing. You can see a short improvised dance playing with the Albertan wind on the BeyondAccess2012 Youtube channel.

With the rare free time we had I made the most of the great paved bike paths and zoomed along in my chairiot enjoying the fresh air, mountain and river views. 

The location of Canmore was stunning, with mountains all around us. We were treated to great hospitality, snow, rain, sunshine -  and the northern lights to welcome us on our first night.

I survived the long intense work days by the knowledge that come 10pm I could go to the hot tub and soak away the aches and pains of sitting all day, and quiet the whirling mind.

I wrote this poem while I was there which sums up the experience for me.


we scan the room
everyone has
what they need
to be present
adjustments are made

across the table
eager to meet
share food

in the hotel
hot pool
to skin
and bone

bikini clad
spa patrons
amongst themselves
  avert their eyes

in my dreams
we take over
the empty at night
kids water fountain
play area
behind the blue tiled wall

swirling circles
around one another

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