The Art of Disability Culture

Published on August 16, 2021

Palo Alto Art Center Celebrates Disability Culture Through Art

The Art of Disability Culture Highlights Inclusion, Accessibility, and Interdependence

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Images from left to right: Michaela Oteri, Self Portrait, digital print, 26 x 38 in., Courtesy of the artist, Katherine Sherwood After Ingres, 2014, acrylic and mixed-media on recycled linen, 84 x 105 in., Courtesy of the artist and Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, Shana Harper, I’m Not Weird I Am Limited Edition, 2017, letterpress print on colored paper, 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist and NIAD


PALO ALTO--The Palo Alto Art Center is pleased to present The Art of Disability Culture: Artists with Disabilities Dispelling Myths, Dissolving Barriers, and Disrupting Prejudice, Sept. 11-Dec. 11, 2021. At the heart of this exhibition is a robust celebration of the diverse, personal, and infinitely varied “disability experience.”

Each of the 20 artists featured has one or more disabilities, whether visible or invisible, and the exhibition centers upon their creativity, vulnerability, and unique perspectives. The exhibition celebrates how disability culture can strengthen our communities through the practices of interdependence, accessibility, and inclusion.

Work in the exhibition ranges from mixed-media pieces by Katherine Sherwood, who had to re-imagine her painting practice after a stroke, to a series of tactile paintings created during the height of the pandemic by artist Catherine Lecce-Chong, who lost her vision suddenly in 2018. The exhibition also includes an audio comic by Chad Allen, ceramics from blind potter Don Katz, a site-specific environmental installation by Jennifer Justice, a healing labyrinth installation by blind artist Maia Scott, and a large-scale sculpture made from discarded materials by Palo Alto artist Matthaus Lam. Other artists in the show include: Bill Bruckner, Jeremy Burleson, Lawrence Choy, Sky CubaCub, Shana Harper, Camille Holvoet, Antoine Hunter, Cedric Johnson, Michaela Oteri, Otis Smith, Anthony Tusler, Rachel Ungerer, and Jennifer White-Johnson.

The Art of Disability Culture exhibition will feature numerous accessibility components to ensure that the broadest possible audience can experience the exhibition and related programs. Audio descriptions will be available for all works of art on view and will also be accessible on the website. Braille labels and audio descriptions will also be available for deaf/blind visitors. Public programs will include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live captioning. Social narratives will also be provided and available online for visitors with autism.

One in four Americans has a disability. And yet, more than 30 years after the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), people with disabilities still face discrimination, prejudice, ableism, and omission. The art in The Art of Disability Culture explores many of these challenges, and also the defiant, creative, and resilient responses of this incredible and diverse community.

Guest curator Fran Osborne shares, “Far from presenting a single monolithic point of view, the artists in the exhibition generously share their own experience and the complexity of their disability identity. Some of the works aim to soothe and heal, and some may provoke us into rethinking our priorities and reflect upon what we can all do to make our world more authentic, accessible, and inclusive.”

The exhibition will include artwork from Bay Area studio programs that have supported and mentored artists with a broad range of abilities, including NIAD, Creative Growth, Creativity Explored and Palo Alto’s AbilityPath.

Free hybrid Public Programs Presented at the Palo Alto Art Center and online:

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Palo Alto Art Center will provide two free hybrid programs, with opportunities for onsite and virtual engagement. Public programs will include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live captioning. The Palo Alto Art Center facility is fully wheelchair accessible.

Friday Night at the Art Center opening reception—Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, 6-8 p.m., FREE

Join us onsite or virtually for this unique hybrid and accessible celebration of The Art of Disability Culture. This event will feature in-person and virtual exhibition walkthroughs, a chance to hear from exhibiting artists, hands-on art activities, a spoken word performance by award-winning author Joy Elan, and a specialty cocktail (Reasonable Accommodation) and bar provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Event will be hosted onsite and online; online registration links:

Community Day Celebration--Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, noon-4 p.m., FREE

Learn more about The Art of Disability Culture exhibition in this unique hybrid community day celebration. Participate in exhibition walkthroughs with the curator, enjoy hands-on art activities, an introduction by Northern California’s only stuttering female comedian Nina G, gallery activities, Canine Companions, a performance by Bay Area native, African, Indigenous, Deaf, Disabled, Producer, Choreographer, Actor, and Dancer Antoine Hunter, and Mozzeria, the Deaf-owned Neopolitan pizza truck!

Event will be hosted onsite and online; online registration links:

Link to press release(PDF, 407KB).

About the Palo Alto Art Center:
The Palo Alto Art Center is your place to discover art. See, make, and be inspired because everyone is an artist. Created by the community, for the community in 1971, the Palo Alto Art Center provides an accessible and welcoming place to engage with art. We serve approximately 150,000 people every year through a diverse range of programs.

The Palo Alto Art Center, Division of Arts and Sciences, City of Palo Alto is funded in part by grants from the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. The Palo Alto Art Center Foundation gratefully acknowledges support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Yellow Chair Foundation, Acton Family Giving, SVCreates, in partnership with the County of Santa Clara, private donations, and members