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September 14, 2006

Forum Explores Careers In the Arts For People With Disabilities

The Tennessee Arts Commission and VSA arts Tennessee , in partnership with the National Arts and Disability Center , will present Arts Talk, Tennessee 's Forum for Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities, on October 6 and 7. The one and one-half day forum will be held on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro , and will include break-out sessions, entertainment, and an abundance of resource materials.

The forum will bring together artists, arts employers, arts administrators and service providers to identify barriers and develop strategies for the successful employment of artists with disabilities. Focusing on the theme of communication, Arts Talk will dispel myths and promote understanding between artists and employers by creating an atmosphere of open dialog.

Estelle Condra who is a nationally recognized author, storyteller and actress will be the keynote speaker. Her performances and presentations encourage her audiences to continue on with persistence, creativity, and a positive attitude.

The conference will also feature the Tennessee premiere of The Goal, an inspiring film that has been called “the ultimate underdog story.” The film has received awards at three international film festivals. Filmmaker Darla Rae and actress Laura Dodd will attend the premiere and will be available for questions after the viewing of the film.

According to Lisa Hester, director of arts access for the Tennessee Arts Commission, this is the first conference of this type in Tennessee . “Other states have hosted career forums, conferences, and focus groups, but this is the first time we have done this in Tennessee ,” says Hester.

Hester has been working closely with Lori Kissinger at VSA arts Tennessee in planning the forum. Both Hester and Kissinger have high goals for Arts Talk, and they hope to make significant progress toward empowering artists with disabilities. Kissinger says, “the forum will allow people to discover their own potential.”

“I like to see people become self sufficient. I am a big believer in the old saying about ‘teaching a man to fish, instead of just giving him a fish.' I think so often people want to do something ‘for' people with disabilities, but this conference will empower people with disabilities so they can do things for themselves,” adds Kissinger. “All people want to feel independent and responsible and productive and needed. So, I'm hoping this conference provides some skills and resources for individuals with disabilities to be able to find productive work in the arts.”

Hester agrees with Kissinger and thinks the conference will provide the necessary tools for participants to succeed. “We will provide artists the skills for creating effective communication tools, such as creating resumes and biographies,” says Hester. She also says, “there will be plenty of networking opportunities between artists and employers.”

Hester and Kissinger would like to see 200 participants. Of course, many of the participants will be artists with disabilities, but they would like to see plenty of employers who are interested in learning about employing individuals with disabilities. Individuals who are in education and career counseling are also encouraged to attend.

“Everyone has at least one talent, we just sometimes need a little help in polishing that talent so it can shine for the rest of the world to see. Disabilities sometimes hide talents from the world, and I hope this conference provides a little polish in the areas of professional skills and inroads so that the talents can shine instead of the disabilities,” says Kissinger.

For more information, contact Lisa Hester at the Tennessee Arts Commission, (615) 532-9797 or e-mail: lisa.hester@state.tn.us. Lori Kissinger at VSA arts Tennessee may be contacted at (615) 826-5252 or e-mail: userk7706@aol.com. Information is also available on the Tennessee Arts Commisison Web site: www.arts.state.tn.us.

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