Five Minnesota Access Arts Awards Announced

Four Minnesota individuals and one arts organization have been chosen to receive the fourth annual Arts Access Awards from VSA arts of Minnesota. Recognizing accomplishments and efforts in making the arts accessible to people with disabilities, the “Jaehny” Awards will be presented on Wednesday, July 26, at 4:00 p.m. at a statewide event, Celebrating Disability Rights, at Anne Sullivan School & Communication Center, 3100 E. 28th Street, in south Minneapolis.

Arts Access Award recipients include:

Active & Visible Minnesota Artist with a Disability – Pete Feigal, St. Paul, and Wendy Harbour, Minneapolis

Individuals or Organizations Actively Promoting Access to the Arts for People with Disabilities – Steven Schmidt, Rochester; Mari Griffin, Minneapolis; Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, St. Paul.

The “Jaehny” (pronounced Janey) Award is named in honor of Jaehn Clare, one of the founders of VSA arts of Minnesota and a former activist in the Twin Cities’ theater and disability communities. This year’s “Jaehny” was created by Circle Pines sculptor Joy Purchase, an arts instructor at Interact Center for the Visual & Performing Arts in Minneapolis. Her works have been displayed at the Sister Kenny International Art Exhibit for the past two years.

This year’s Jaehny recipients all have done much to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of the arts.

Pete Feigal, an actor and artist living with multiple sclerosis and mental illness, has focused his energies in the past few years to present the issues and champion opportunities for people with mental illness through the Tilting at Windmills Theatre company, which has involved more than 100 people with mental illness in its two critically acclaimed productions and through its speakers bureau.

Wendy Harbour has won the SASE Jerome Fellowship, given poetry readings, had an essay included in a book about disabled women and parenting and written original music for One Voice Mixed Chorus. She also helped organize a Signs of Halloween event featuring stories and poetry by deaf children and adults.

As managing director of Rochester Civic Music and chair of the Minnesota Presenters Network, Steven Schmidt has acted as a vocal advocate of the letter & spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by promoting access to the arts for all Minnesotans.

Mari Griffin has been Minnesota’s leading promoter of Audio Description – a way of assisting the viewing of performances by patrons who are blind or of low vision.

Under the leadership of Carolyn Bye, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council has taken a strong role in educating small and mid-size arts groups from the seven-county metro area about providing access to the arts for ALL their constituents.

For more information regarding the award, recipients, or other VSA arts of Minnesota services, activities and programs, contact Craig Dunn at 612-332-3888 (V or TTY) in the metro area or 1-800-801-3883 (V or TTY) in Greater Minnesota.