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Celebration of the spirit: DisArt closes festival with DisStories



DisArt Festival closed its 15-day run with DisStories, an event designed to celebrate the mind, body, and soul of individuals who experience a disability. The evening opened with Emcee Ted Jauw, asking the question, “What if our idea of the way things are were just based on who we are and where we are, and less about what we are?”

Pianist Paul Skripnik then filled the theatre’s house with the booming harmonies of his piece, “Brain Storm,” inspired by his disability with seizures.  The acts to follow included spoken word, interpretative dances and songs. Each performance told the story of disability in a way that was unique to the performer.

Poet Meghan McGladdery shared words from her pieces, ‘Outlaws of Danger Town’ and ‘Road Map.’ Singers Katie Mitchell and Kari Reed used the medium of song to show prejudice the door as they shocked and awed audience members with their talent. The Living Lights Dance Company from Arts in Motion brought the magic of a summer thunderstorm to the stage, as dancers brushed across the stage in their thematic costumes.

DisArt Ceremony-77

While performers expressed themselves on stage, a projector screen showed inspirational quotes and thoughts in the background like, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

DisStories closed the evening with “This Land,” inviting audience members to sing along and participate in the hand motions. As children and adults moved their arms to the lyrics, smiles could be seen from the front row to those standing in the back. DisArt Festival director, Dr. Christopher Smit, then thanked the guests, sponsors and volunteers for their support for the festival.

“[DisArt] did not happen in New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco, or anywhere else. It happened here. In Grand Rapids, Michigan,” said Smit. “Everyone deserves a place at the table in Grand Rapids. We started that conversation with DisArt, and we will continue that conversation throughout the year.”