PHAME Announces New Statewide Coalition Dedicated to Increasing Arts Inclusion

In a major step forward for creating a more equitable Oregon arts community, PHAME announced this morning the inaugural membership of its newly formed Oregon Arts Leaders for Inclusion Coalition.

Group of PHAME community members smiling at the camera

This coalition is a new learning-action community comprised of artists who experience disabilities and nonprofit arts organizations from the Portland metro area and across the state, dedicated to learning together about disability history, justice, equity and intersectionality; to supporting PHAME in developing services, tools, and trainings to support stronger inclusion of people with disabilities in the broader arts community; and to setting inclusion benchmarks within their organizations and making demonstrated progress toward those goals.

“PHAME believes art is a fundamental right, and that our community is better when everyone is included,” says PHAME Executive Director Stephen Marc Beaudoin. “This coalition has the potential to spark an enormous regional and national movement in arts inclusion for people with all disabilities, and especially those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. For so long we’ve been stuck only talking and thinking about access. And don’t get me wrong – access is critical. But we have to move beyond access to a deeper discussion and more substantive action to make progress on real community inclusion. And people with disabilities need to be supported and empowered in leading this work.”

The coalition – which will be co-facilitated in its first year by PHAME Consulting Advisor Grant Miller and Executive Director Stephen Marc Beaudoin – represents five artists who experience disability and eleven mainstream nonprofit arts organizations from a variety of artistic disciplines and practices (see below for the full membership list). Selected through a competitive application process, the coalition members are considered a first year learning community cohort. Membership to organizations and individuals is free for this first year cohort, with the intention of developing a larger, fee-based membership model in future years.

Coalition members say they are thrilled by the opportunity to be at the vanguard of creating a more inclusive Oregon arts and culture landscape.

“I am an actress and singer, and have performed in many plays. I have worked with people with and without disabilities and I’ve learned a lot from them. I have learned that people without disabilities are interested in collaborating with people with disabilities and in learning about how to support us,” says Anne-Marie Plass, a Portland-based singer and actress who studies at PHAME. “This coalition has the potential to change the community for the better, and I look forward to using my voice not only as a singer but as an advocate to advance community inclusion.”

Brian Weaver, Artistic Director of coalition member organization Portland Playhouse, says the Playhouse is eager to be part of this coalition because it “recognizes there is a gap between our good intentions for inclusion, and our institutional knowledge and understanding of how to make our system work for people who experience disabilities,” adding: “To have anything less than the full spectrum of the human experience on our stage and in our classrooms is to withhold the best art we can make. We are grateful for PHAME’s leadership and vision.”

Supported in part by the Oregon Arts Commission, the HMF Beaudoin Family Foundation, many generous individual donors, as well as an additional foundation supporter to be named shortly, supporters of the coalition say the opportunity for systemic change is real and exciting. “As part of our vision and new strategic plan, the Oregon Arts Commission is committed to reviewing all of our work through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Brian Rogers, Oregon Arts Commission Executive Director. “Our support of the new Oregon Arts Leaders for Inclusion Coalition is a critically important component of that work. We are confident that the coalition will provide us with additional insight and perspective to ensure full inclusion for artists and audiences with disabilities.”

Roya Amirsoleymani, Community Engagement Manager for coalition member PICA (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art), adds this: “Disability is too often excluded, overlooked, or misunderstood when we talk about, design, and plan for greater equity and justice in the field. I am confident that PHAME and the coalition’s work will make significant advances to ensure that disability is understood and valued as integral to improving local arts organizations’ outcomes. We are ready to share what we discover and gain in this process, and to work together to transform dialogue and learning into tangible action and change.”

The coalition launches in December of this year, and will issue public reports throughout 2017 to keep the community apprised of its work and recommendations.

PHAME / Oregon Arts Leaders for Inclusion Coalition
Year 1 cohort

Nick Bahen, filmmaker
Megan Bartlett, performer
Cheryl Green, filmmaker/performer/writer
Anne-Marie Plass, performer
Amanda Russel, multi-discipline artist

APANO / Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
Blue Sky Gallery
Echo Theater Company
Oregon Children’s Theatre
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Pendleton Center for the Arts
PICA / Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
Portland Art Museum
Portland Playhouse
Write Around Portland

Affiliate members – organizations that primarily serve artists with disabilities in Oregon that wish to contribute to this vital systems change work, and will be engaged in an important but less robust capacity – will be announced at a future date.

(Photo above right: PHAME artists visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and connecting with actors from the 2016 season at OSF)

Anya Roberts