The Art of Disability Culture

Artists with disabilities dispelling myths, dissolving barriers, and disrupting prejudice

September 11-December 11, 2021


 Woman in a wheelchair holding a pen and crutches, with art-nouveau-style background

Michaela Oteri, Self-portrait, 2020. Digital print. Courtesy of the artist. 

Image description: A digital portrait of a large white woman with blue/purple dyed hair in a ponytail. She is wearing a crop top that reads "The Future Is Accessible" and a black plaid skirt. She is holding up a pen in her right hand while sitting in a wheelchair and holding a pair of forearm crutches. The background is art nouveau-inspired with purple wisteria flowers.

Introduction to the exhibition

The Art of Disability Culture provides an invitation and a gentle provocation. The exhibition features work created by artists with disabilities celebrating their insight, fragility, honesty, and resilience. Engaging with this art will envelop you in a safe space of reflection and contemplation, one in which it is fine to stare and experience the humanity of others. We hope that you leave the exhibition with a new perspective, inspiration, and possibly more questions than you came with. 

One in four of us either has a disability currently, or will acquire one as we age, and although we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), discrimination and exclusion persist. Indeed, many disabled artists have worked as activists because the world is unfortunately not always accessible. The Bay Area is a fertile home to many organizations and activists who continue to forward disability rights and disability justice. Disabled artists are an integral part of this strong and expanding ecosystem. Their practice and their work provide us all with a valuable model of communication and support that relies on interdependence, patience, and ingenuity. 

This enhanced website for the exhibition includes images with alt text and audio files with visual descriptions of the works of art in the exhibition, recorded by the artist whenever possible. Audio descriptions are also available in the gallery at the Art Center via QR codes, as well as a comprehensive Braille guide for blind and visually impaired visitors. All related exhibition events have American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, live captioning, and online components.

Fran Osborne
Guest Curator




The Art of Disability Culture was made possible with funding from California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. We would also like to acknowledge Pamela and David Hornik and Magical Bridge for their support. 

Grateful thanks to all the artists and performers, and to the following organizations for their wonderful advice and support in creating The Art of Disability Culture: AbilityPath, Canine Companions for Independence, Creativity Explored, Creative Growth, KripHop Nation, Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, Magical Bridge, Midpeninsula Media Center, Mozzeria, Northern California Spinal Cord Support Network, Options For All, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Reach Program, Stanford Office for Accessibility Culture, and Vista Center for the Blind. Many grateful thanks are also due to the staff of the Art Center and interns Janessa Barragan and Sarah Lizarde, also to Lisa Ericksen, Elizabeth Phillips (for Braille production), and Nora Pan as special assistant to Matthaus Lam. 


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