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Online symposium will bring together disability-identified artists from across Atlantic Canada


A three-day online conference, set to take place this weekend, will bring together disability-identified artists from across Atlantic Canada.

The Disability Atlantic Arts Symposium, the first of its kind in the region, will provide accessible and equitable professional development opportunities to artists with disabilities.

"There's so many artists in our region who feel isolated and don't feel like they have a sense of community and COVID-19 has only amplified that," said Natasha MacLellan, artistic director at Theatre New Brunswick. "But you can't blame a lot of these artists who look around at companies, concerts, festival lineups, art galleries, and if they don't see themselves represented in programming galleries, all the different arts of course, they're feeling isolated."

The idea for the symposium came from the JRG Society for the Arts, which was formed in 2018 in memory of Justin Robert Grant – a filmmaker who passed away from ALS.

"When we were discussing at a board meeting what else JRG Society of the Arts could do to assist artists with disabilities, Natasha suggested something like the symposium and so, that's how it became the foundation of how this started," said Rachel Bower with the JRG Society for the Arts.

Ysabelle Vautour, a founding board member and visually impaired artist, says it was important to her that people with disabilities lead the symposium.

"It's a different culture, right. When people talk about accessibility in general, they're like, 'Oh, it's something we add on after.'  It's like, no. When its disability led, it's included within the event, things are integrated," said Vautour. 

The event is also a unique opportunity for artists to network.

"I don't know a lot of disabled artists in the community here so, all these people I've been meeting this year have been wonderful. It's kind of like a special kinship," said Vautour.

The symposium will include American Sign Language interpretation, closed captioning, transcripts and a mix of visual descriptions and integrated audio descriptions.

"It's hard to articulate it," said MacLellan. "Just the amount of time and care it takes to be accessible, all our videos had to be transcribed so we could get the test to the ASL interpreters. We needed audio visual descriptions."

Tickets for the symposium, which takes place from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, are available online. Top Stories

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