Jill Vyn and Christopher Smit are the Executive Directors of DisArt

As ArtPrize Nine begins, it’s important for us to reflect on the fact that full engagement with the arts takes a community effort. Artists, curators, filmmakers, event producers and attendees have to work together in order to ensure the full participation of all people.

Tonight’s free screening of the documentary film, Dina, for the ArtPrize on Screen series is made possible through the collaborative efforts of ArtPrize, Celebration! Cinema, and DisArt. As with all DisArt events, audiences can anticipate that they are being accounted for during the design process. At tonight’s film event, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Ladies Literary Club at 61 Sheldon Blvd SE, audiences can expect an accessible entrance, community conversation before and after the film, ASL interpretation, open captioning, quiet spaces, a post film discussion, ample accessible seating made possible by Calvin College’s physical plant team, accessible bathrooms, and an overall atmosphere of hospitality.

What you might not realize is the collaborative effort necessary to make access like this a natural part of the planning process. When Celebration! Cinema approached DisArt to partner with them on this film months ago, they knew that the film content, themes and production all had to align with the philosophies of DisArt. They also knew that there would be basic accessibility standards for the event itself.

Rather than being intimidated by this process, Celebration! Cinema has consistently welcomed the opportunity to expand their knowledge of disability as well as their audience. This became particularly apparent when less than a week prior to the event, we received word that the distributor of the film was uncertain that open captioning for Dina was going to be completed in time for the screening.

Captions are a key element of creating an accessible film event. They operate as an invitation to those who rely on captions for understanding as well as for those whose personal preference is to have words on the screen.

Thanks to its ongoing collaboration DisArt, Celebration! Cinema was equipped to put the necessary pressure on a national film distributor to get Dina captioned in the final hours. The impact of this sort of victory cannot be underestimated. On the surface, open captioning makes it possible for more people to view Dina in Grand Rapids. On a deeper level, this local victory could mean an increase in the number of national releases captioned by the distributor in the future.

With more than 500,000 ArtPrizers expected to show up this year, we have an opportunity to model what good community-making looks like. By working closely with its partners to increase the full participation of the Disabled community, DisArt is excited to work alongside organizations like Celebration! Cinema and ArtPrize to support efforts to increase access to the arts. And it’s collaborations like these that will help Grand Rapids become a more welcoming city, especially during ArtPrize.

Looking forward to the art and conversation tonight… All are welcome. 

By Jill Vyn & Christopher Smit on