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Disability: Dialogue on a unique way of living

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

The DisArt Festival aims to change perceptions about Disability, one work of art at a time.

About NPO Showcase

NPO Showcase highlights nonprofit and government organizations that improve the quality of life in our community. The program is a feature of GRTV and the Community Media Center, with producer and host Julie Way. You can catch it on GRTV on Saturdays at 8 AM and 6 PM and can view past episodes on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website. If your nonprofit would like to be interviewed on NPO Showcase, please contact Julie Way.

“Disability is not an inherent struggle, but rather, Disability is an art; it’s a unique way of living,” says Dr. Chris Smit, paraphrasing a quote from Neil Marcus. “This definition goes against every definition of Disability that we have.”

Smit, Director of the DisArt Festival, along with Jill Vyn, Festival Developer, have partnered with the city of Grand Rapids and many community organizations to bring the DisArt Festival downtown April 10-25 to spread that message. Unlike ArtPrize, the Festival includes a curated show, Art of the Lived Experiment, and there is no voting involved.

True to our Grand Rapids style, the Festival will also include an exhibit by local artists. “We really realized that there’s a lot of amazing Disability artists in Grand Rapids, and so we thought, let’s do a local exhibit as well.” said Smith. Along with the art exhibitions, the Festival will also include cultural workshops, a fashion show, a film festival, and more.

“What I’m most excited about is the organic growth in the city. We have put out this idea that we’re going to help change perceptions about Disability, and we’re going to do it through a Festival. We didn’t put out a call to tell people to come on board, but people are naturally doing it, and I think part of that is that people believe in this.” says Vyn. Sponsors and partners for the Festival include many local and even some national foundations, nonprofits, and businesses.

The Festival will be a fun, family-friendly event where everyone is welcome. “[Through this work] we’re finding that it’s all about connecting people and developing relationships so that it doesn’t matter who you are, you just come together and enjoy each other.” says Vyn.

Smit and Vyn hope that the Festival will not only encourage dialogue about Disability, but keep it going even after the Festival is over. “There is great work happening 365 days a year,” says Smit. “The Disability Advocates of Kent County have been empowering people with Disabilities in this town for years.”

You can hear Smit’s thoughts on Disability as art and learn more about the DisArt Festival in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above. You can also find more details on the DisArt website.

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