The awards recognize local contributions to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in 2020.
St. Louis, January 22nd: The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative (ACAC) will host its first-ever IDEA Awards via Zoom on January 27th sponsored by Ameren Illinois. The awards recognize institutions and individuals who made outstanding contributions to the inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility of the Greater St. Louis cultural landscape in 2020. ACAC is a program of the visual-disability-focused nonprofit MindsEye, whose President and CEO Jason Frazier conceived of the awards. “For the last few years, we’ve heard amazing stories about the core principles of this award being brought to forefront in arts and culture spaces,” said Frazier. “I realized many awards are handed out in this arena, but nothing recognizing the efforts to make arts and culture obtainable for everyone.”
The four IDEA Award winners for 2020 are Dance the Vote, The Arts and Education Council, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, and Jenna McNeal, the Lead Visitor Engagement Supervisor at the Missouri History Museum. On the 27th, they will be recognized and presented with a bespoke award that features the text “ACAC IDEA Awards 2020” in braille. The awards were designed and created by Custom MADE, a St. Louis maker space.
Founded by theatre artist and social activist Joan Lipkin and co-produced by Ashley L. Tate, Dance The Vote is a nonpartisan organization that promotes voter advocacy and registration through performance, video, graphics and other arts related channels and civic engagement. In 2020 they featured choreographers of color and companies that focus on dancers with disabilities including Full Radius and Heidi Lasky Dance. The videos were packaged into weekly episodes and viewed over 50,000 times in the fall of 2020. In Lipkin’s words, “With 61 million adults with disabilities in the US, we believe disability is crucial to discussions of and action about diversity and inclusion, including voting.”
The Arts and Education Council believes the arts are critical to shaping a more vibrant region for all. Since 1963, they have kept art happening across the bi-state region through a variety of programs and grants with the goal of ensuring our region is rich with arts and cultural experiences. To support a full creative life for all, the Arts and Education Council commits to championing policies and practices of cultural equity that empower a just, inclusive, equitable, and accessible region. “We are grateful that the Arts and Education Council has had the opportunity to partner with MindsEye on numerous programs including as an early supporter of the audio description program,” said Cynthia A. Prost, Arts and Education Council president and CEO. “MindsEye’s commitment to arts accessibility makes our community a better place and we’re honored to receive this recognition from them.”
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is committed to fostering community and joy across the St. Louis region in the Shakespearean tradition of art for all. In 2020, despite restrictions on gathering for a regular season, the Festival partnered with MindsEye to produce audio descriptions for three new productions: Cymbeline presented virtually, “A Late Summer Night’s Stroll” in Forest Park and “A Walking Xmas Carol” in the Central West End. “We are honored to be recognized by ACAC with this 2020 IDEA Award,” said Tom Ridgely, Producing Artistic Director. “The Festival hopes to create theater experiences that are welcoming for all individuals. We are grateful to have the experts at MindsEye as partners to help make more art accessible in the region.”
Jenna McNeal has been advancing accessibility at the Missouri History Museum for years as the Lead Visitor Engagement Supervisor. She proposed the museum’s recently completed Nursery and Sensory Friendly Room and continues to monitor its use and success. She also develops and executes accessibility training for museum staff and volunteers and initiated the maintenance program for the museum’s complimentary wheelchairs. Jenna enjoys personally welcoming groups of adults with developmental disabilities who visit the museum with their care facilities. According to her nominator, “While many people may feel uncomfortable knowing how best to interact with these groups, Jenna has established positive relationships with the residents and care providers and looks forward to their frequent visits.”
The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative brings together cultural practitioners, people with disabilities, and disability advocates to share knowledge and experiences through bi-monthly forums that include panels and discussions. The goal is to empower local institutions to become more accessible to people with disabilities as visitors, patrons, artists, employees, and volunteers. Over 50 organizations have participated in forums to date. Sponsors include United Way of Greater St. Louis, Ameren Illinois, Emerson, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, and the Arts and Education Council Arts and Healing Initiative. The ACAC is a program of MindsEye, a local nonprofit organization that connects people with a visual disability to the St. Louis region through information, rewarding recreation, and artistic and cultural experiences. To register for the IDEA Awards or request to join ACAC, contact Magan Harms at email@example.com.
MindsEye is a proud United Way Safety Net Member Agency.