BY CHELSIE WYSE
PHOTOS BY BRYAN ESLER
The city of Grand Rapids welcomed DisArt Festival to its events calendar on Friday, April 10, with a special toast at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) and the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). Festival staff and supporters smiled with anticipation, as a glass was raised to the event aimed to change the city’s perceptions.
“I think it’s fantastic,” says Miranda Krajniak, Executive Director of UICA. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Grand Rapids to showcase artists that work within disability. The partnership for this festival between UICA, Kendall College of Art and Design and Grand Rapids Art Museum is really wonderful.”
Among those in attendance was City of Grand Rapids Mayor, George Heartwell. When first approached with the concept of the festival, Heartwell had just one thing to say: “Let’s make it a year!”
“Why not make it yearlong instead of just a month?” says Heartwell. “Let’s bring lots of opportunities throughout the year for people to engage around the theme of creativity and disability.”
Each day of the festival’s 15-day run is filled with family-friendly, free events that are open to all. From performance pieces to gallery shows to artist talks, DisArt’s mission is to take the city by the hand and lead it to a place where art is everybody.
“I hope this [festival] helps shape perceptions about the abilities of disabled individuals and a new recognition is found,” says Heartwell. “People are not defined by their physical disability, but rather by their creativity and innovation; their ability to see the world in a way the rest of us cannot and to open us up to that vision.”