All Together Different
Written by Katie Rosenberg, senior Cultural Communication major and student in the Institute for Visual Studies Course “Representing Disabilities”
A diverse group of students from various majors at James Madison University will be unveiling an exhibition on representing disabilities on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. This exhibition will feature four displays on representing Autism, Deaf culture and experiences, invisible disabilities, and mobility disabilities. The exhibition will be in the Institute for Visual Studies, located in Roop Hall room 208 on the quad of the James Madison University campus. The opening will be held from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 and will remain in place through May 3.
The exhibition is a product of this semester’s Institute for Visual Studies (IVS) spring studio seminar entitled “Representing Disabilities” co-taught by Dr. Melissa Aleman (School of Communication Studies) and Bill Thompson (University Communications). IVS is a center at James Madison University dedicated to scholarly, scientific, and creative inquiry into the nature and workings of images through multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty. This semester the seminar brought students together from a variety of majors, including studio art, graphic design, communication studies, and the school of media arts and design, among others. The students worked in interdisciplinary groups and focused on one specific disability or specific group of disabilities: Autism, deafness, invisible disabilities, and mobility disabilities.
In order to create inclusive representations of disabilities, the students engaged in a process known as co-creation. In this process, the students met with individuals with disabilities to create visual projects and explore stories. By doing this, the students were able to create representations that reflect the diversity of experiences of disabilities through engaging in collaborative design processes. Mikaela Steinwedell, a senior communication studies major said that “The process of co-creation has allowed us to see something through the perspective of many. Our hopes with this exhibition is that others can gain a new perspective through the stories of our co-designers.” Through the process of co-creation with individuals with disabilities, these students are not just speaking for those with disabilities, but working with them to create a final product that reflects the experience and input of the co-designers.
According to Julie Powers, a junior studio art major, “Working with the co-creators has given me the opportunity to relate with their experiences and pushes the boundaries of the stereotypes of people with disabilities.” This exhibition will provide the audience with an opportunity to witness these stories and experiences. These students hope to remove the perceptual blocks that often prohibit people from breaking away from stereotypes of people with disabilities.