An article about the recent National Endowment of the Arts grant awarded Assistant Professor of Education Mary Kelly appeared in the Finger Lakes Times. The grant will help fund “The Arts Experience: A Festival Celebrating Inclusion and the Arts,” which takes place in April.
The article quoted Kelly, “It’s really exciting for us to be able to have funding in place,” said Kelly, explaining the grant will allow them to bring in entertainers and presenters they had been unable to attract before.
The full Finger Lakes Times article follows and more information about the NEA grant is available online.
Finger Lakes Times
Inclusion arts fest gets NEA funding
Heather Swanson • January 9, 2012
GENEVA – A local festival dedicated to disability and the arts is getting a $10,000 boost.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges assistant professor Mary Kelly, the driving force behind “The Arts Experience: A Festival Celebrating Inclusion and the Arts,” was awarded a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track grant by the National Endowment of the Arts to help fund the April event. Kelly received formal notification of the award at the end of December.
The festival will be the third of its kind in Geneva. Open to the public, it draws participants from throughout the region.
“It’s really exciting for us to be able to have funding in place,” said Kelly, explaining the grant will allow them to bring in entertainers and presenters they had been unable to attract before.
One of those is the band Flame, a rock group comprised of developmentally disabled musicians from across the state. Flame has been featured in People magazine and on “Good Morning America.”
Kelly said she has yet to see the band live, but other people involved with the festival have “and loved them – they’ve gotten me excited about it.”
In addition, the grant will pay for a screening of “Wretches and Jabberers,” a film that chronicles the experiences of two autistic men, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnett, as they travel the world. The men use computers to communicate, Kelly explained. Thresher and Bissonnett will attend the screening and answer questions, she said.
“The documentary is good,” Kelly said. “It’s really powerful to hear from people that you might not [otherwise] have been able to hear their story. The documentary really brought that story to a wider audience.”
Kelly said the grant allows the festival committee to secure all the arts opportunities possible. While the event is designed to be entertaining, there are many other benefits, Kelly noted.
“The opportunity to have an inclusive experience where you learn, have fun, explore, try something new like the arts,” she said.
“It’s not always a typical opportunity in typical society. We don’t always have as many inclusive activities.”
All of the events, including workshops, are open to public participation, although the film requires advance registration due to limited seating.
In previous years, the festival spanned all of April. This year, it’s been consolidated into a two-week period, Kelly explained.
“We have a lot of folks coming from quite far away,” she said. “Having just one event on a day across a month, it made transportation more difficult.”
HWS representatives and participants from The Collaborative of the Finger Lakes have been planning the 2012 festival since August, a process that’s becoming more formalized, Kelly said. They have even been approached by entertainers who would like to participate in future years, she added.
“It’s nice to see that momentum into the future,” said Kelly.
Information on the 2012 event will be available soon at www.hws.edu/festival. The site currently contains information from the 2011 festival.