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The Accessible Expressions Ohio exhibit at Paper Circle in Nelsonville on W Columbus Street, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. The travelling art installation came to Nelsonville at the begining of October and will remain until the end of November 2021.

Art exhibit demonstrates need for further inclusivity in art spaces

Until Nov. 30, Paper Circle, 35 W. Columbus St., will host the Accessible Expressions Ohio’s art exhibit sponsored by Art Possible Ohio, or APO. 

APO is an organization that assists in raising awareness for individuals with disabilities and promotes accessibility for individuals with disabilities in artistic settings. APO advocates for artists through a variety of programs across Ohio, including Accessible Expressions Ohio, connects artists to professional exhibits and works to further expose their artwork and highlight a vulnerable population. 

APO accepts art entries across three different categories: youth, emerging and professional. The accepted art is showcased in various art locations through a traveling exhibit. The exhibit is available Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Megan Fitze, the director of programs at APO, said the project has been going on for at least a decade. Each year, the staff reaches out to artists across Ohio to submit their work. Fitze said submissions had been reduced from a larger number to accommodate smaller exhibitions. 

“It's a call for art that we put out every fall to artists all over the state: specifically, artists with disabilities asking them to enter 2- or 3-D artwork,” Fitze said. “We take those entries. They're adjudicated by arts administrators, then we accept about 45 to 60 artworks that open up at an accredited institution, like a museum or a gallery, in the spring. Once that exhibit opens and runs for a while, we chop up the exhibition into two or three smaller shows, and we travel around the state.”

Scout Ery, the executive director of Paper Circle, said the opportunity for the artists to display their work at a place like Paper Circle increases their confidence surrounding their art. 

“It's always really nice when you can have your work up in a gallery. It legitimizes it a little bit more,” Ery said. “I think it's great for an artist to have a gallery show, but it's also really nice if somebody purchases a piece. It encourages you to continue to produce.”

Molly Cairney, executive director of APO, said individuals with disabilities are too often overlooked in creative communities, as they are typically structured through ableist perspectives.

“When you think of just creative problem solving in general, it's really difficult. Like when you think about the spaces that we move around on a daily basis, they're not built for people who are different,” Cairney said. “They're built for a one-size-fits-all mentality …  Everyone is shaped and built, learns and thinks and looks different, and so having those perspectives of people who might use a wheelchair or who might have a cognitive difference allows us to have all of those perspectives represented.”

To combat this, Cairney said APO strongly advocates for art exhibits and related organizations to seek out work created by artists with disabilities, as their potential is not measured by their cognitive or physical differences.

“One of the things we try hard to advocate very strongly for at Art Possible Ohio is that museums should be collecting artists who have disabilities,” Cairney said. “There are brilliant artists out there who might be on the spectrum, who might have a limb difference or might have a cognitive disability, and their art is no less valid or no less deserving of being part of the canon in the collection.”

With the inclusion of more projects such as Accessible Expressions, Cairney stressed it is essential to alter the perception of how art can be created and to expand this idea to all communities. 

“Historically, the arts have been like much of our society where we see a very narrow viewpoint,” Cairney said. “So, we typically see folks that are white and middle-class men, and it's only in the last probably 50 years that women and artists of color and artists with disabilities have become part of that conversation. And we need them to be a part of that conversation because we don’t really view how our society works, functions, grows and expands if we don't have the viewpoints and the voices of all people, all representatives of our society.”


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