Colleges Celebrate Inclusion and Art – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Colleges Celebrate Inclusion and Art

The Arts Experience, formerly Disability and the Arts Festival, will hold its third annual festival celebrating inclusion and the arts. From April 16 to April 29, the festival provides an opportunity for participants, including people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, the Colleges’ community, and the general public to explore various means of expression through the arts.

“It’s so exciting that there is an increased momentum on campus supporting the arts festival,” says Assistant Professor of Education Mary Kelly, who is one of the organizers of the event. “The first year there were two professors hosting art workshops, and now in this third year of the festival, there are at least 11 different courses that are hosting art workshops during the festival.”

Allison Monnell, the community relations director for Chemung ARC, sits on three different planning committees and has watched the event grow over the past three years. “One only need to come to a single event or workshop to see the impact the experience of creating does for a person,” explains Monnell. “It will convince you to get involved, even if it’s just participating.  People’s mental and physical abilities fade away during the creative process and it becomes this overwhelmingly joyful experience.”

Throughout the course of the two-week event, workshops will be presented by HWS faculty members and students, as well as ARC agency arts instructors and artists. Faculty members include Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography Debora Bernagozzi, Professor of Education Pat Collins, Professor and Chair of the Dance Department Donna Davenport, Professor of Media and Society Les Friedman, Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, Associate Professor of African Studies Marilyn Jimenez, Assistant Professor of Dance Kelly Johnson, Assistant Professor of Education Mary Kelly, Associate Professor of Art Nick Ruth and Associate Professor of Dance Cadence Whittier. Many of these workshops will be held in connection with the faculty members’ classes.

“When Mary Kelly approached me about the festival last year, one of my first ideas was to offer two workshops in creative movement/dance,” explains Whittier, whose Beginning Modern Dance class of 24 students collaborated with 20 festival participants during her two workshops. “It was a great experience for the HWS students and the community members outside of the Colleges to interact with each other through movement and dance.”

In addition to the many different workshops being offered, the Arts Experience will also host an expo, film screenings, live musical and dance performances and several student-initiated events.

Three workshops and a performance by A Moving Experience, The Arc of Monroe County’s modern dance troupe will kick things off on Monday, April 16. Active for the past 20 years, this dance troupe utilizes the individuality of its dancers to create and perform dance works relating to the themes of peace and love.

The following afternoon, on Tuesday, April 17, the Colleges will host an Assistive Technology Expo, featuring a panel of speakers from Perkins School for the Blind at 4 p.m. in the Vandervort Room. Kicking off the event, the JP Simpson and the Gregory Street Blues Band will perform at 3 p.m.

On Thursday, April 19, the Arts Festival will screen “Wretches & Jabberers,” a documentary about two men with autism who embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. Following the film, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette – the two stars of the documentary – will answer questions. The film screening will begin at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room.

Another film screening will be held on Tuesday, April 24 when Friedman presents “Lives Worth Living,” a documentary tracing the disability rights community’s efforts to strive for equal civil rights for all people with disabilities. Following the screening at 2:30 p.m., Friedman and civil rights activist Jim Wilson will present a panel discussion in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

On Friday, April 27, the Arts Festival will conclude their celebration with a bang, when the band FLAME, performs during the Arts Gala Finale at 5 p.m. in the Vandervort Room. FLAME is a rock band comprised of musicians with developmental/physical disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, and blindness.  The band has recently gained national attention, and has been featured in People magazine and on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Additionally, during BloomFest (formerly Art Fest), HWS Live, Arts Collective and Architecture Society – with support from Koshare, Thel, ProArts and Art Cares – will sponsor several art workshops on Saturday, April 28. BloomFest is a three-day student-initiated arts celebration that will take place from Friday, April 27 until Sunday, April 29.

“Last year I went to a few of sessions, and really liked the idea of the whole event,” explains Lucia Berliner ’12, who is currently helping with advertising and organizing, and is scheduled to co-lead several workshops. “Right now I’m interning with a fantastic Art Therapist, Christin Lersch, at the Ontario ARC. I’m loving it and looking forward to finding ways of bridging the gap between the ARC and HWS students during this year’s Arts Experience. I’m getting to know so many wonderful new people and I’d like to facilitate this opportunity for others.”

In addition to planning Bloomfest, students, including members of the Arts Collective and the College Experience Outreach Club, have been making colorful, tie-die pencil flowers to pass out across campus and in the community to raise awareness about the festival.

“It’s been great to see the growing excitement and involvement of different student groups in volunteering to help with the festival,” says Kelly.

This event is a partnership between the Colleges and the Collaborative of the Finger Lakes, Inc., a consortium of 11 NYSARC agencies. Kelly was recently awarded a Challenge America Fast-Track grant by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that is helping to fund the performance by FLAME, and the screening of “Wretches and Jabberers.”

All events are free, open to the public, and accessible. Students, faculty, and staff are highly encouraged to participate, sign up for workshops, and come out to enjoy all the events. 

For a full schedule of events including complete event descriptions, visit

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