Texas Commission on the Arts offers tips from which Texans can learn

The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), the state agency responsible for promoting art and cultural tourism across the state, announced that November has been proclaimed Disability Arts Month in Texas. Sen. Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth authored the proclamation promoting accessibility to the arts for all people, including those that are disabled. “At the Texas Commission on the Arts, we live by a single motto’Art is for Everyone,'” said Brenda Tharp, Administration for Performing Arts and Accessibility for TCA. “Naming November Disability Arts Month for the state acts as a reminder for Texans that the Commission and many arts organizations statewide are constantly working to live out this philosophy through the promotion of accessibility to the arts for patrons, artists and performers alike.” November’s designation as Disability Arts Month began in November 1999 when VSA Arts of Fort Worth/Tarrant County organized “Follow the Dream,” a month-long celebration of accessible arts. Members of the Texas Association of Mayors’ Committee on People with Disabilities attended the conference to focus on issues of general accessibility. Following the event, momentum built regarding accessibility to art, resulting in the Texas Senate proclaiming, in part: “Of the more than 54 million American citizens with disabilities, 3.9 million are Texans. Many of these citizens are artistically talented and they produce thousands of works of art each year. The month of November has been chosen to celebrate the many artistic accomplishments of these citizens. During the month of November, artwork and events of the performing arts will be showcased in locations throughout the state in celebration of the many contributions people with disabilities make to the arts and to our culture.” “Art is a universal language that allows everyone the opportunity to creatively express the similarities and differences that exist among us all,” said Tharp. Tharp added, “The Texas artistic community has come a long way in its efforts to make art more accessible to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience our unique and thriving culture, but there is still a great deal to be done. We hope this proclamation will help spur more discussion, more ideas and more action to provide increased accessibility for everyone.” TCA recognizes several organizations that are making differences in the lives of those with artistic abilities: In Nacogdoches, a mayoral committee hosts a monthly “Arts on the Hill” event at Stephen F. Austin University where artists with disabilities are brought together to teach, demonstrate, motivate and inspire others. The Creative Wanderers group of El Paso has worked with Ysleta ISD to create arts classes for people with disabilities. The classes have been so successful that the program has extended into nursing homes and assisted-living centers. Illuminations, a performance art group based in Houston, has held multiple “shadow performances” whereby both a voice actor and a singing actor are on stage together, allowing audience members to experience the production and gain a unique experience as each actor has his or her own performance style. The Sculpture Garden of the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Midland offers a “sound garden” so that visually impaired patrons may listen to an audio guide that describes the plants and sculptures, and allows them to touch each item to enhance the experience. Access Arts Austin continues to add film and live performances to its growing list of audio-described and sign-interpreted programs, including popular shows like “A Chorus Line,” ” Death of a Salesman” and “Madame Butterfly.” Arts organizations that specialize in artists or patrons with disabilities are encouraged to provide background information on the group to TCA’s comprehensive online arts resource, TCAnet. For more information about arts accessibility, contact Brenda Tharp at (512) 463-5535, ext. 42334 or please visit the web site at www.arts.state.tx.us, enter the virtual village and click on the ADA building. The Texas Commission on the Arts was founded in 1965 by the Texas Legislature. Art communities supported through TCA include the visual arts, the performing arts, film and multi-media, literary arts, music, theater and arts education.

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