“Don't pursue a career in the Arts unless you love the Arts truly, madly, deeply. And do not have any delusions about what awaits you both in educational settings, and in the job market. …If you think you're gonna get a break because you have a disability, think again. …You better be the best you can be at what you do, and do not allow yourself to use your disability as an excuse NOT to work continually and consistently towards total professionalism and high standards of quality.”
-- Jaehn Clare, professional theatre artist, from "A Career as an Artist Ain't an Easy Row to Hoe," keynote address for The Art of Employment: Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities on March 25 & 26, 2002 at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN.
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In 2002, a small group representing the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, VSA Indiana, and the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) convened to discuss an innovative federal funding opportunity. With the input from a diverse, statewide advisory team, the group crafted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Vsa Arts, and the National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) at the University of California in Los Angeles. Competitive grants became available following a series of national summits. The federal initiative had raised awareness of the contributions made by people with disabilities in the arts and the obstacles they face.
In 2004, Indiana's grant partially supported an inaugural, statewide forum on careers in the arts for people with disabilities held in Indianapolis. Indiana Art Works: Employing Creativity was attended by over 100 people. Participants comprised a broad spectrum of artists, family members, vocational professionals, and arts organizations interested in learning about and advancing arts career opportunities. They sought to assess the needs and barriers for artists with disabilities and to develop strategies to meet those needs. Read a summary report of the Forum's survey of participants.
2004 - An informal association of stakeholders began meeting regularly. Group renamed ArtsWORK Indiana and mission defined as "to facilitate access to careers in the arts for people with disabilities through awareness, education, and encouragement."
2005 - Dr. Yocheved Samson became ArtsWORK's first Chairperson.
2006 - Funds received for development of the ArtsWORK website via the 1st of several Forum Follow-up grants from the NEA and NADC, distributed by the IAC. Chris Karson became Chairperson and created the Wheelchair Monologues performances. Indianapolis Museum of Art began hosting regular ArtsWORK meetings.
2008 - Creative Connections Project: a series of 6 regional workshops on careers in the arts held in Columbus, New Albany, Indianapolis, Valparaiso, Muncie and Richmond (funded by a Follow-up grant.) ArtsWORKIndiana.org launched.
2009 - National Arts Accessibility Leadership Award given to the IAC in recognition of ArtsWORK's achievements. The cash award used to create the IAC's Artist Access program, offering competitive, professional development grants to 14 individual artists with disabilities. Wug Laku became Chairperson.
2010 - Creative Networks Project established Satellite groups in New Albany and Bloomington (3rd Follow-up grant.) 1st Advisory Board elected.
2011- Nina McCoy named interim Chairperson, instituted ArtsWORK Professional Development workshops. ArtsWORK New Albany and South Central ArtsWORK Indiana offered monthly meetings and professional presentations.