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Kristin Nelson – Day 1

October 21, 2010

Given the limited accessibility of 290 McDermot Avenue, it was decided earlier that of Kristin Nelsons’ various collaborative art-making sessions on the very topic of accessibly, only the first would take place at aceartinc. with the subsequent ones would take place at Video Pool Media Arts Centre. However, upon arrival it was became clear that it was a much better idea to host the first session outside and in front of the gallery instead of upstairs. We knew this would make it easier for people to actually join us.

We moved the flip chart stand and paper, some chairs, and writing implements outside, then sat down with our cups of tea to wait. Within a few minutes we met a woman, a man named Robert, and a young girl. The man explained to me that they were visiting Winnipeg and tried walking to their accommodations taking a different route than usual, but were disappointed to discover a lack of benches available for resting. The young girl, as Kristin found out from her mom, needed to rest frequently and they had been unable to find anything other than the cold steps in front of buildings to serve their need. Its great to get outside and walk whenever possible, but as Robert pointed out, resting is also essential and cities should realize the importance of this.

Local artist, Susan P. Gibson, joined us and spent quite a bit of time talking with Kristin about the various challenges she faces as an artist with disabilities. Here is an excerpt from that conversation:

While talking, we engaged in a chalking intervention as a response to the inaccessibility of the building. First we drew an imaginary elevator on the ground level to consider how different the same structure would be if it were possible to access it without having to deal with an unusually heavy door at the top of the steps.

Next, Susan added markings to an uneven bump in the concrete ground to increase visibility. Kristin and Susan also drew a series of canes and related images on the building.

Here is a video of this action:

Further conversation included reflections on the understanding gap between the art world and people with different abilities, as well as the limitations of programs intended to help people with disabilities but fail to recognize the spectrum of desires people have as individuals regarding things like work/occupation. This led to noticing the lack of diversity for options of all sorts including enjoyable community participation, through programming or otherwise.

While discussing which buildings relevant to activity in the arts and cultural community were accessible, Susan told Kristin about 62 Albert’s almost secret accessible entrance. Very few people know about a side door into the building that has no steps and leads directly to an elevator that can reach all floors.

Heather arrived around this time and furthered the conversation with regard to accessibility into the arts community by describing the work of Arts Junkion as a resource that makes materials available to people who might otherwise not be able to access them.

While I carried on a conversation with Heather about activism, direct action, legislation, etc., Kristin was still intrigued by the “secret entrance” at 62 Albert and headed out to see this for herself. Upon her return, she decided to produce a sign that would draw attention to the area. When she finished, we walked together to 62 Albert and posted the sign.

On our way back to the gallery , we engaged in a few more conversations. Kristin has some additional notes, which we posted earlier. Her blog entry can be found here:

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