Arts & Inclusion Conversations encourage us to think differently

By William Coleman, CDE, Director of Arts Access

Recently the Tennessee Arts Commission hosted Arts and Inclusion (A&I) Conversations, in partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. Representatives of arts and disabilities groups were posed with two questions: what would an inclusive, barrier-free arts experience look like? And, what has been the best or most challenging experience in providing support to patrons with disabilities? Participants then identified common barriers and removal strategies were shared and developed.

As a testament to the overall success of the discussions, I recently received word of a concert the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera (CSO) gave as a direct response to these conversations. In conjunction with the Siskin Children’s Institute, CSO developed a program within their February Family Concert to be inclusive and sensory friendly.

A quiet room, complete with coloring pages and other activities, was available for those who were sensitive to overstimulation and needed to listen from a distance. An instrument ‘petting zoo,’ seating on carpet at the front, and a volunteer who provided props and led in hand motions was also available. A sign-language interpreter was present at the concert as well. It proved to be a success, and organizers hope to see a continuation of the sensory-friendly efforts at an upcoming series at Volkswagen.

Thank you to all of those who participated in these conversations, you made them successful. For more information, please read the full report.