Lean on me, I am ready: A workshop on access resources and practices - Red Bull Arts Detroit

Lean on me, I am ready: A workshop on access resources and practices

Friday October 18th

2-5 PM

RSVP Required: RSVP by emailing info@redbullarts.com

Join us for a workshop that investigates accessibility that’s rooted in disability and intersectional in approach. It will provide useful adaptable resources and practices for curators, arts administrators, and organizations to create spaces with greater accessibility in their programs by sharing in the process Red Bull Arts Detroit underwent in relation to their current show “Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying.”


For many, the term “access” means proximity to power and resources. When used in relation to disability, it often refers to the ability to enter a place, fully participate, and feel welcome. 

While the organizers of this workshop believe that conceptions of access must be rooted in disability justice when working to make societal structures more accessible, access is also inextricable from a sense of belonging determined by other identity markers. As disability scholar Tanya Titchkosky (2011) wrote in The Question of Access: “Access is a way people have of relating to the ways they are embodied as beings in the particular places they find themselves. By ‘embodied’ I mean all the ways we have to sense, feel, and move through the world, as these are mediated by the interests of social environments, including race, class, gender and sexual orientation.”

The current exhibition at Red Bull Arts Detroit, Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time, in part, addresses disability and care. By understanding access (and exclusion) to be social and economic, as well as physical, the show’s curator Taraneh Fazeli asked Red Bull Arts Detroit to approach access not as a movement towards compliance via a checklist, but as an ongoing and interrogative relational process. As such, they are expanding access to their physical space and programs in multiple ways. First, to better support those who might not feel comfortable in “white cube” art spaces for many reasons and creative work already happening outside institutional structures, they will support a series of programs Fazeli curated outside the organization’s confines in Spring 2020. Additionally, with an outside team of local and national consultants, efforts are underway to support Red Bull Arts Detroit in becoming more accessible (for people with disabilities, and others marked by processes of exclusion). This process has been led not just by administrators, but also by disabled artists and activists. 

This process included an audit of Red Bull Arts Detroit’s physical infrastructure (galleries, residency, and office), resulting in phased improvements and intersectional anti-oppression training for its staff. Additionally, the consultants Ezra Benus, Dessa Cosma, Ani Grigorian, are helping with the establishment of a “tool kit” describing assistive technologies, resources, and best practices to be used onsite after the show and available for local organizations and cultural practitioners to borrow free of charge for their own events. To do so, meetings with local organizations including The Science Center, DIA, and The Henry Ford Museum were held to share in and try to build on existing structures.

This workshop is an opportunity for the consultants to share with you what they learned in this process. It is also for others to come together to share in the challenges and successes they have experienced in their own work to create accessible structures for themselves and others, or for those very new to access to learn more. By sharing these challenges, needs, and successes, it will help develop common knowledge. Furthermore, it will help Red Bull Arts Detroit understand how to best flesh out the “tool kit” and be an opportunity to learn how to utilize the resources it will offer.


Dessa Cosma is the founding director of Detroit Disability Power, a nonprofit organization which organizes people with disabilities around issues that impact their lives, while dismantling ableism in institutions and & social justice movements. She is committed to bridging the gap between disability inclusion work and other social justice efforts in order to build big, powerful movements that dismantle interlocking systems of oppression. Dessa is a long-time social justice organizer, fortunate to spend her career working for reproductive, racial, economic, and disability justice. Dessa is a 2017-19 University of Michigan CEW+ Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist.

Ezra Benus is a disabled artist, educator, curator from New York City. He believes that supporting disability artistry is a key part of how cultural institutions can move towards greater accessibility, along with the more commonplace practices of supporting access through educational programming and making infrastructure of spaces more accessible. In collaboration with other disabled artists and communities, Ezra works collectively towards building a sustainable and vibrant disability arts community and reshaping discourse on the ways disability is normatively understood in our culture. Ezra was the first Access and Adult Learning Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum, and consulted on access and disability arts for art organizations such as Red Bull Arts Detroit, Eyebeam, and Hunter College Art Galleries. Recent curatorial projects include the exhibition My Body Is The House That We Live In at Gibney Dance. He has exhibited work at Flux Factory, NYU Gallatin Gallery, The 8th Floor, Dedalus Foundation, Fylkingen. His work and activism is recognized and mentioned in i-D Vice, The New York Times, and Sight Line Magazine

Taraneh Fazeli is a curator and educator from New York. She curated Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time as the inaugural curatorial fellow at Red Bull Arts Detroit. This traveling site-specific exhibition leans on some of the very structures that play a role in making us sick, using their support to transform existing structures and also engage in more radical networks of support outside of them. The impetus to explore illness as a by-product of societal structures while also using cultural production as a potential place to re-imagine care in was her own chronic illnesses and ongoing work in institutional critique. Taraneh Fazeli’s recent exhibition, I let them in. Conditional Hospitality and the Stranger. at Bemis Center (Omaha, Nebraska) also investigated the ethics of care and accessibility by using hospitality as a lens to understand white benevolence and varying treatments of asylum seekers and immigrants.

Ani Grigorian is a geriatric social worker turned community & systems designer operating a consulting company focused on building accessible mobility infrastructure. She specializes in environmental gerontology, a practice that aims to improve how we experience and interact with our environment as we age and our ability changes. Ani has been able to apply this practice, coupled with an emphasis on mobility, to enhance homes, transportation systems, street infrastructure, assistive technologies, and cultural events. Ani’s most notable project was co-founding Ford Motor Company’s GoRide Health, a wheelchair-accessible mobility service and operating technologies. In general, she loves to explore how people and things move throughout physical space, and identify strategies to reduce barriers for a more universally-designed society. 


Related Exhibitions: Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying

Canaries, Refuge in the Means at Recess (New York, NY). Descriptive caption: View of a storefront with big glass windows occluded by red fabric. There is a portable ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp with yellow caution tape coming from the green front door to the sidewalk. The disability rights slogan NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US is in white vinyl letters on the left side of the windows.