Interact Center participates in Art Access Chautauqua

Local artist Andrew Forbes plays the bagpipes for participants at the Interact Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Joe Sulik

Local artist Andrew Forbes plays the bagpipes for participants at the Interact Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Grace Kramer

For almost 20 years, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts has challenged preconceived notions of what it means to be a disabled artist. 
 
Consisting of disabled artists from the Twin Cities area, the group is made up of visual artists as well as performing artists who take part in writing, producing and acting in original shows. 
 
This year Interact will be participating in Arts Access Chautauqua. The event is a statewide gathering created to celebrate artists with disabilities and look at their progress in the arts community 25 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became a law. 
 
Chautauqua is an Iroquois word used in 1874 for an event in Chautauqua, New York. The event featured plays, lectures and musical performances. Now, the term can be used for an event of the same nature.   
 
The theme of the weekend’s event is “Here I Am.” 
 
“Here I Am celebrates the innovate diversity of performers of all ability,” Leslye Orr, a local artist and the Mistress of Ceremonies for the Here I Am concert, said. “We are calling it Here I Am because we feel like this is who we are.”  
 
The two-day event includes panels and presentations, a concert on Friday night and live content from Minnesota artists with and without disabilities. 
 
“I would really like to see the arts community embrace the community with disabilities,” said Sheila Bland, the coordinator of the event. “I think that’s the ultimate goal because these are citizens and members of the artist community.”  
 
Interact will perform among other groups on Friday evening.
 
The company will present three songs originally written for other shows. 
 
Created in 1996, Interact puts on two original productions a year. Each show has a particular theme, and the artists develop their script through improvisation on the theme. 
 
“Interact is very unique in that we’re a professional theater company and visual arts program, but we’re also a licensed adult daycare center,” said Taous Khazem, a staff artist for Interact.  
 
With over 125 artists working at Interact, the group expands their list of collaborators each year.
 
“We’re constantly working with different artists from the Twin Cities, whether it’s a set designer or costume designer or guest actor,” Khazem said, “every show has a different set of guests that are coming to work with us.” 
 
Besides getting the disabled community connected with the Twin Cities art community, the goal of Interact is to break down preconceived ideas of what it means to have a disability.  
 
Arts Access Chautauqua possesses the same goal.
 
“We are making the general artistic population aware that this is a valuable group in their community and that these artists are also a part of their general artistic community,” Bland said. 
 
The weekend event is the first of its kind for VSA Minnesota — the State Organization on Arts and Disability and the host of the event. 
 
“In each section, we are going to take suggestions about the vision and where they would like to see accessibility advocacy go in the future,” Bland said, “including if they think that we need to continue to have meet-ups.” 
 
Arts Access Chautauqua will provide an opportunity for people with and without disabilities to celebrate the progress of the disabled arts community and where it will go in the future. 
 
“Because of the freedom devised by the ADA over 25 years ago,” Orr said, “both audience and performers alike now have the opportunity to embrace and inspire infinite possibilities through all types of artists in all art forms.”  
 
Arts Access Chautauqua
 
Where Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts
528 Hennepin Ave.,
Minneapolis
When 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Cost Both Days: $60 in advance, $70 at the door
Friday only: $40 in advance, $45 at the door
Saturday only: $30 in advance, $35 at the door