Festival highlights artists with disabilities

Still Alice

“Still Alice,” directed by faculty member Christine Mary Dunford at Lookingglass Theatre through May 19.

Bodies of Work, a UIC-organized, 11-day citywide arts and culture festival that opens May 15 and continues through May 25, highlights the work of artists with disabilities through theater, dance, film and much more.

“The festival comes out of our philosophy — to think differently about people with disabilities — to see how their differences contribute and enrich our culture, rather than just reducing people to a medical diagnosis,” says Carrie Sandahl, festival director and associate professor of disability and human development in the College of Applied Health Sciences.

The festival opens Wednesday with a free reception, 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall. Chicago writer Susan Nussbaum will be honored, and a discussion on the state of disability arts will include keynote speaker Simi Linton and panelists Ann Fox, Riva Lehrer, Sami Schalk and Leroy Moore.

The festival continues with national and international artists with disabilities who are creating cutting-edge theater, dance, literature, poetry, spoken word, film and visual/performance art in venues all over the city, presenting disabled artists whose work challenges pre-conceived notions of disability.

Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., presents the play “Still Alice,” directed by UIC theatre faculty member Christine Mary Dunford, through May 19. Dunford adapted the play from Lisa Genova’s novel about a Northwestern University professor facing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The May 16 and 19 performances of “Still Alice” will include panel discussions with Sandahl, Tamar Heller, professor and head of disability and human development; graduate student Cheryl Kaplan Zachariah; and Alan Factor, research assistant professor of disability and human development.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum will host two events: a May 23 workshop on disability in museums for museum professionals, and a May 24 sound art performance by Christine Sun Kim, “Pardon Me, Where is the Kitchen?”

Christine Sun Kim

Christine Sun Kim performs at Hull-House Museum May 24.

Other cultural, academic and community groups participating include UIC’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Raven and Victory Gardens theaters, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago and many more.

The festival, three years in the making, was developed by the Program on Disability Art, Culture and Humanities in UIC’s department of disability and human development, with grants from the Illinois Humanities Council, the Illinois Art Council, 3Arts and others.

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