Arts Experience Offers Community Focus – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Arts Experience Offers Community Focus

Bringing together the HWS community and people from across the Finger Lakes to share in the common theme of “community,” the sixth annual Arts Experience: A Festival Celebrating Inclusion & the Arts is currently underway and will continue until Friday, April 10.

Facilitated through a partnership between HWS and the Collaborative of the Finger Lakes, The Arts Experience is an opportunity for participants, including people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, the HWS community and the public to explore various means of expression through the arts. The Collaborative of the Finger Lakes is a network of 12 NYSARC, Inc. chapters providing support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Celebrating inclusion and the arts, the Arts Experience festival has had a remarkable trajectory, growing into a two-week long event that this year includes 31 workshops and more than 1,000 participants arriving from all over the Finger Lakes. At the heart of the 2015 festival is the theme of “community.”

Associate Professor of Education Mary Kelly, a co-coordinator of the festival, says this year represents another important opportunity to get involved.

“The festival encourages a collaborative teaching approach that partners college faculty with art teachers and local artists with disabilities from local disability services agencies,” Kelly says. “The partnerships provide an important opportunity for instructors to learn from each other, share strategies and ideas to enhance participation, and sets the groundwork for future collaborations. Additionally, for some participants, attending an event on a college campus is a new experience, so having an opportunity to work alongside students and meet new people has been a highlight of the festival.”

The festival is set up into workshops, many of which are slotted during regular HWS class periods, giving students the opportunity to get involved. All workshops and events are taking place on the HWS campus and all activities are free, wheelchair accessible and open to all. 

On April 10, at the end of the two-week festival, there will be a closing gala in Scandling Campus Center. The event, which is open to all, will be a celebration of local artists and performances. It will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor.

This year, at least 18 of workshops are designed by HWS faculty and staff from an array of disciplines and areas of study, including dance, music, theatre, education, media and society, writing and rhetoric, social justice, as well as from the Finger Lakes Institute and the Colleges’ Center for Counseling and Student Wellness.

During this year’s festival, Associate Professor of Dance Cadence Whittier and one of her classes will, for example, lead workshops exploring community arts and the environment in collaboration with students from the Varick, N.Y., campus of the Hillside Children’s Center, a school on the east side of Seneca Lake that provides services and educational opportunities for young people with disabilities.

Other workshops include Carrie Bergeron, a nationally recognized self-advocate and motivational speaker who will talk about her experiences with Down Syndrome and self-determination. In addition, nationally known dancers Rik Daniels and Tina Christina-Price will teach a workshop called DanceAbility, which explores inclusive dance techniques for everyone.

Now in its sixth year, The Arts Experience festival traces its roots to the Seneca Review, a literary journal published twice a year by HWS Colleges Press. The special issue, called “The Lyric Body,” was devoted to writers and artists with disabilities, and addressed the subject of disability. From this came the idea of celebrating the creative abilities of those in the disability community, and thus the Arts Experience Festival was born.

For more information the Arts Experience: A Festival Celebrating Inclusion & the Arts, questions about programs or how to get involved, please contact Mary Kelly at

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