Bodies of Work: The Chicago Festival of Disability and Culture

Chicago is the first

Bodies of Work: the Chicago Festival of Disability Arts and Culture is an unprecedented event in Chicago and the U.S. Bodies of Work will explore and celebrate the contributions of artists with disabilities, the contemporary contexts of disabled lives, and works that illuminate disability experiences. This is a 10- day festival, from April 20 to 30, that will include theatrical performances, dance, literature, poetry, spoken word, film, visual art exhibitions, educational programs and more.

Julie Barrios works on the STORYWORKS banner

STORYWORKS, a part of Bodies of Works, is taking place at 10 parks in the city as a part of the ongoing Therapeutic Recreation Program of the Chicago Park District. Classes are held once or twice a week for 1 to 2 hours with 20 or more participants. The Little City Center for the Arts Program and Chicago Park District are collaborating to offer children and adults with disabilities a unique opportunity to relay their personal stories through words and images. Little City Foundation's Center for the Arts, primarily Margo Rush shared their expertise and trained Chicago Park District instructors. A grant from the Fortsmann Foundation made this program possible.

Nancy Cortes with artist Mark Hopp at McGuane Park Therapeutic Recreation Grouop

Nancy Cortes, Senior Program Specialist/Arts, Culture and Special Events Department provided insights about several aspects of the program. The Chicago Park District Therapeutic Recreation instructors are working closely with participants to reveal their personal stories. Some are whimsical such as that told by a male participant at Harrison Park which described a performance by a rock band (his?) at the United Center. His illustrations depict the stage lighting and mike set-up and in another book he showed the entire band is in interesting costumes. Other stories tell about love of camping and a written story about being injured in a car accident.

The results of the Chicago Park District STORYWORKS project and Little City's 'peer-mi-sis' project will be presented at two locations, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts and the Chicago Park District's South Shore Cultural Center Art Gallery. Staff from the Chicago Park District and the Little City Center for the Arts will work together to choose artworks that represent the 10-week STORYWORKS program; those that are interesting or convey their wonderful stories effectively, as well as those with artistic merit.

Finished handmade books containing stories

The Chicago Park District has come a long way since the Fall of 2005 when General superintendent Timothy J. Mitchell, announced the Chicago Park District's American Disabilities Act initiative to combat $50 million in architectural barriers and enhance inclusion programming. The District appointed its first Chief Disability Policy Officer, assembled a Disability Advisory Council, and set up a procedure to evaluate accessibility issues in the city's parks. There is currently programming for people at 17 parks. And now it has:C STORYWORKS.

Mc Guane Park therapeutic recreation group working on STORYWORKS banner project

Finished handmade books with personal stories

Dates, times, more than 20 venues plus many activities can be found at, or 312-744-6630,TTY: 312-744-2947.

Pictures by Brook Collins

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