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Ohio representatives at the Kennedy Center LEAD conference in Austin

To LEAD or Not to LEAD

Do you believe that access to the arts is an equal right? Do arts organizations across Ohio feel empowered to create welcoming, inclusive, and accessible arts experiences for everyone? At the Ohio Arts Council, we believe that access to the arts is a key priority! 

At the recent Kennedy Center LEAD Conference held in Austin, Texas, I was joined by hundreds of individuals from across the world to learn, share ideas, and create plans of action to ensure we are always striving for equity and access within our organizations and communities.

LEAD stands for Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability. And lead is just what the 20+ individuals from Ohio did during the three-day conference. I’d especially like to acknowledge Kim Turner, the Ohio Arts Council’s accessibility coordinator. Kim’s planning and communications ensured everyone from Ohio was prepared for the conference, engaged at the conference, and headed home with ideas and plans to make a positive impact in all things accessibility.

While at the conference, Ohioans were featured as session presenters. Erin Hoppe of VSA Ohio, Carol Argiro of Bridgeway Academy, and Cary Johnston of Shopworks Theatre Company presented Arts & Autism Ambassador Training. The session addressed how organizations can equip their programs and spaces for inclusion, and how they can train staff, volunteers, and artists to welcome sensory-sensitive audiences. It was well received, with more than 90 participants.

The session Abstract Art and Universal Exhibition Design featured a panel discussion around a multi-modal approach of universal design. A collective group of unique providers employed this approach for the Massillon Museum of Art’s exhibition: Blind Spot: A Matter of Perception. Heather Haden of the Massillon Museum of Art, John Luchin of Classic Interactions, and Samuel Foulkes of the Clovernook Center for the Blind led a compelling session. Hands-on activities engaged participants in the ways museums can foster greater advocacy for access by using universal design principles and a curatorial approach of metaphoric synesthesia.

These two Ohio-led sessions, along with dozens more, provided time for learning, reflection, and planning for action. The OAC’s Kim Turner will be posting accessibility tips and resources each month in our newsletter. Take advantage of the resources offered and make connections with colleagues to share the information. If you have tips to share, we’re happy to hear from you too! Send me an email with accessibility information you’d like to share so that our community can grow across Ohio! You can email me or Kim at and, respectively.

If you’re interested in attending the LEAD Conference in 2018, mark your calendar for August 8-10 and begin thinking about your journey to Atlanta, Georgia! Together we can invest in accessibility, we can engage with audiences far and wide, we can be innovative and smart in our approaches to serve all audiences, and we can lead the way to ensure access to the arts is a priority and reality for all Ohioans!

Until next time,
Donna Collins' signature
Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

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