Voices from Inside the Studio: An Introductory Conversation on Human Rights

March 19, 2019 By christea-parent

This month at the Chicago studio we began an ongoing discussion about our rights. For the next few months, we’ll be discussing different civil and human rights at our studio meetings, which are a time for all artists, staff, and volunteers to collectively make decisions and have meaningful discussions.

This month we started with a broad overview: what are rights?  What does it mean to have rights?  We defined rights as “freedom to do certain things (speak, learn, go places, work) and freedom from certain things (abuse, neglect, stealing).”

A few artists pointed out specific rights meaningful to them:

Susan brought up the right to visitation: “I have the right to go visit my mom.  People can’t take that away from me.”

Bill brought up the right to make choices about his appearance: “I have the right to grow out my hair.  It’s my hair.  I can do what I want with it.”

Alysha brought up the right to safety: “I have the right to go places and still feel safe.”

Alysha also shared with us a story of her rights not being respected: “I had a job with a job coach [at a local gym], they knew about my disability.  One day I was folding towels and I had a seizure there.  That was pretty much the end of it.  They said I couldn’t work there anymore because I had a disability.”

Alysha knows that she is protected from workplace discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  “It’s against the law, especially when you previously know that someone has a condition.  You can’t judge somebody for their disability, or say ‘no, she has seizures, or he’s autistic, so we’re not gonna have her here, we won’t take him’.  We have the right to work somewhere.”

As we continue to discuss our rights, we hope that artists like Alysha can feel empowered knowing that they are free to exercise their rights and can obtain accommodations to access these freedoms.  The more we are aware of our rights, the more we can advocate or ourselves and each other.   Both Alysha and fellow artist Dave Krueger agree that they feel respected at Arts of Life; as Dave puts it, “I got it lucky here”.