National Endowment for the Arts to Convene National Summit on Careers in the Arts for People With Disabilities

First summit in more than 10 years to address underrepresentation in the arts field

Washington, D.C. -- More than 70 percent of people with disabilities are not in the labor force, and those who wish to pursue a career in the arts face difficult challenges. On July 22-24, 2009 the National Endowment for the Arts will convene the National Summit on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. This multi-agency summit will gather more than 100 experts to evaluate progress and develop new strategies to advance educational and career opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities. The first such gathering since 1998, the summit’s highlight events include a keynote speech by Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Arts, Culture, and Disability Policy and two free, public performances by artists with disabilities.

"The NEA is honored to convene decision makers to foster increased access to careers for artists and others with disabilities," said Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell. "The arts industry provides millions of workers with employment, and talented individuals with disabilities deserve the opportunity to contribute their unique voices to the cultural vitality of our nation."

While the arts industry contains a variety of careers in design, media, performing, visual, and literary arts, people with disabilities continue to face significant barriers to training and employment. Consequently, they are underrepresented in the cultural world as artists, administrators, staff, and in other arts-related positions. At the same time, many art careers offer flexible employment models that may complement the needs of some individuals with disabilities.

The National Summit will feature sessions on accomplishments over the last decade, education and training issues, employment support, and new research. During the summit, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage will host two free, public performances. On July 22, 2009, at 6:00 pm, the Heidi Latsky Dance Company will present excerpts from "Gimp," a work that challenges preconceived notions about dance and the human form. The July 23 Millennium Stage Performance at 6:00 pm will feature "Flying Solo: Monologues by Five Deaf Performers," with a post-show talk back session.

This summit is the first since 1998, when the NEA convened the first-ever summit on art career opportunities for people with disabilities. That summit resulted in specific improvements and policy changes. Among these advances are an ongoing series of state-wide forums (26 held to date) on arts careers sponsored by the Arts Endowment, state arts agencies, and VSAarts, and administered by the National Arts and Disability Center at UCLA. Other outcomes are a mentorship program and a resource guide titled Putting Creativity To Work, sponsored by the Social Security Administration and VSAarts. The previous summit also resulted in improvements to the Department of Labor’s employment resources. More specifically, the Department of Labor added approximately 100 arts positions to its Occupational Codes Manual that is used by rehabilitation counselors in advising people with disabilities about their education and in choosing careers. This expanded list of job descriptions benefits all workers in the arts industry.

The NEA is the lead agency in this multi-agency collaboration that involves The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; VSAarts; the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy; the Administration on Developmental Disabilities of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services; The Social Security Administration; The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education; NAMM; and Quest: Arts for Everyone. Working together, this public-private partnership will further advance common goals for individuals with disabilities.

The National Summit on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities is closed to the public except for the free, public Millennium Stage presentations. For more information, contact the Arts Endowment Office for AccessAbility at 202-682-5733/5530.

Other NEA Accessibility Resources

The NEA AccessAbility Office provides advocacy and technical assistance to encourage accessibility in arts programming for older adults, veterans, people with disabilities, and people who reside in institutions. The AccessAbility Office works internally with Arts Endowment staff, grant panels, and grantees to make NEA-supported arts programs fully accessible. The office also convenes panels and seminars and initiates cooperative projects with other federal agencies and nonprofit groups to better educate professionals serving older and disabled people. Highlight projects include:

•The NEA Leadership Initiative on Universal Design, which educates designers, schools of design, and others on a design process that goes beyond special accommodations to incorporate features that may be used by everyone at all stages of life.

•The Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities leadership initiative, which features a partnership with VSAarts and the National Arts and Disability Center at UCLA. The initiative convenes statewide forums with representatives from the arts, rehabilitation, education, and disability communities to address barriers and implement strategies for advancing training and career opportunities of artists and arts administrators with disabilities.
•The first-of-its-kind study Creativity & Aging: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults. The NEA initiated and is the lead sponsor of this study.

Information about the NEA AccessAbility Office and its programs and publications are available on the website.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

Liz Stark

Published on: 2009-07-13

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