Chicago Magazine: How Artists Helped Propel Chicago’s Disability Rights Movement

October 5, 2018 By anne-cauley

Nonprofits like Access Living have stood as some of these artists’ greatest allies. The organization Arts of Life, established in 2000, serves as an incubator for disabled artists, providing them with studio space and a community gallery to exhibit their work. And Bodies of Work, headquartered at UIC, leads programs that give disabled artists a platform to share and celebrate their work. Since 2014, the group has partnered with 3Arts, a nonprofit that provides marginalized artists — including women, people of color, and disabled artists — with grants.

Gallery 400’s exhibition on disability arts and activism is, [Riva] Lehrer says, “incredibly unusual.” It doesn’t just underscore the labor of Chicago’s creative community in advancing the disability rights movement. It gathers and celebrates a diverse, honest body of work by artists with disabilities.

“Disability has been seen as the antithesis of what is beautiful and of what is hip,” Lehrer says. “The idea of what it means be disabled is still stuck in this reductive and sad place, in a lot of ways.