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Disability Futures Unveils Virtual Festival, New Funding

Ford, Mellon, and United States Artists present a free festival featuring 2 days of art and ideas from disabled artists, writers, performers, and designers.

NEW YORK CITY: The Ford Foundation, in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and United States Artists, will present the Disability Futures Virtual Festival, running July 19-20. This free festival (registration required) will feature two days of art and ideas from disabled artists, writers, performers, and designers, and will celebrate the work of the Ford Foundation’s Disability Futures Fellows and their collaborators.

Disability Futures, which launched last fall, is an initiative created by, for, and with disabled artists, developed in partnership with the Mellon Foundation and administered by United States Artists. The aim of the initiative, originally concieved as an 18-month effort, is to spotlight the work of disabled creatives and amplify their voices, granting each $50,000. Recently, the program was able to announce that Ford and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations have committed $5 million in new funding for Disability Futures, which will help support the initiative through 2025, including support for two new cohorts of fellows.

Planning for the first Disability Futures Virtual Festival was guided over the past year but the first cohort of Futures fellows, in an effort to present their ideas and artistry on their terms. The convening of disabled creative practitioners will include never-seen performances, compelling conversations, and a virtual dance party. The event will include American Sign Language (ASL) and live closed captioning and audio descriptions in English. After the event, transcripts and recordings will be linked on the festival website.

Participating fellows include Navild (niv) Acosta, multimedia artist; Patty Berne, artistic director of Sins Invalid, filmmaker, and writer; Eli Claire, poet and essayist; John Lee Clark, writer; Sky Cubacub, garment maker; Jen Deerinwater, journalist, non-fiction creative writer, memoirist, and photographer; Rodney Evans, filmmaker; Ryan J. Haddad, playwright and performer; Jerron Herman, dancer; Jim LeBrecht, film director and producer; Riva Lehrer, painter and writer; Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield, designer; Mia Mingus, writer and journalist; Perel, performance artist, dancer, choreographer, and writer; Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-samarasinha, writer and performance artist; Alice Sheppard, choreographer; Christine Sun Kim, artist; and Alice Wong, journalist. Additional previously announced cohort members include filmmaker Tourmaline and interdisciplinary artist Carolyn Lazard.

Additional speakers during the festival will include Kayla Hamilton, Denise Sherer Jacobson, Melissa Crosby, Ellen Choy, Kevin Gotkin (aka DJ Who Girl), Marcy Angeles, Tony Enos, and Fannie Sosa. Welcoming remarks will be given by Ford Foundation president Darren Walker to kick off the festival’s first event, “Disabled Ancestries, Spaces, Histories, and Stories,” featuring Jerron Herman and Perel.

Other sessions include “Disability Portraiture,” “Bodies of Wisdom: Disability Justice x Climate Justice,” “Choosing Ourselves and Each Other: Queer Disabled Legacies, Desires, and Dreams,” “Description, Language, and Access,” “A More Inclusive Community—The Power and Presence of Indigenous Disabled Stories,” and “Memorial to Things We Don’t Know.”

For a full rundown of the two-day event, and to register for the free programming, head to the Disability Futures Virtual Festival event website.

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