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3Arts Expands Disability Culture Leadership Initiative

New video conversations with four artists from Chicago's dance and theater communities added to online hub for disability art and culture.

3Arts Expands Disability Culture Leadership Initiative

3Arts, the Chicago-based nonprofit organization, announced today the four dance and theater artists added to its Disability Culture Leadership Initiative, an online platform that elevates the work of Deaf and disabled artists and encourages the arts and culture sector to prioritize Disability Culture in programming and organizational efforts. The new featured artists are Brian Balcom (theater director), Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert (playwright), Willyum LaBeija (dancer), and Robby Lee Williams (dancer).

All artists are recent alumni of the 3Arts/Bodies of Work Residency Fellowships, a program centered on the creation of new work, professional development, and advocacy for Disability Arts & Culture. After their fellowship periods, alumni are invited to participate in videotaped conversations to document their work, experiences, and evolving dialogues on disability aesthetics.

The newly enhanced DCLI website now features six insightful and candid video conversations on a range of topics, including "Creating Spaces for Belonging" and "Inclusive and Introspective Theater." Videos featuring the four new artists are moderated by disability culture advocate Anita Gonzalez, professor of Performing Arts and African American Studies at Georgetown University and co-Founder of the Racial Justice Institute.

The DCLI web presence has been expanded since its 2021 launch, with all videos updated to include full written transcripts, making the content more accessible and better optimized for search engines and ultimately elevating these artists even further. The new DCLI videos, accessibility resources, and profiles on participating artists are now available at

"3Arts is proud to add four stellar artists to our growing platform and to share and celebrate the dynamic work of artists on the cutting edge of the Disability Art and Culture movement," said 3Arts Executive Director Esther Grisham Grimm. "This web platform is more than a resource for the field. It reflects an ever-expanding network of Deaf and disabled artists in Chicago who support each other through and beyond their art, and we look forward to working closely with them as they continue to raise the bar each year."

The launch of DCLI in 2021 stems from work that began seven years ago, when 3Arts partnered with Bodies of Work-a network of artists and organizations whose art reflects disability aesthetics and experience-to establish the 3Arts Residency Fellowships. The program was designed to build audiences and opportunities for Deaf and disabled artists in the Chicago metropolitan area and beyond. 3Arts has worked closely with the Bodies of Work consortium to develop the Fellowships and establish this new Disability Culture Leadership Initiative. Bodies of Work is co-directed by Carrie Sandahl (professor at the University of Illinois Chicago's Disability & Human Development department) and Sandie Yi (assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's department of Art Therapy & Counseling, and program director of the Disability Culture Activism Lab), with additional partnerships with Access Living and UIC's Disability Cultural Center.

In addition to the four new artists, the eleven other program alumni featured on the website include: dancemakers Ginger Lane and Kris Lenzo; theater practitioners Michael Herzovi, Arlene Malinowski, and Robert Schleifer; sound artist Andy Slater; multidisciplinary artists Matt Bodett and Reveca Torres; and visual artists Riva Lehrer, Mariam Paré, and Pooja Pittie. Their video interviews were moderated by filmmaker and disability advocate Justin Cooper.

The DCLI and the 3Arts/Bodies of Work Residency Fellowships are programs of 3Arts and supported in part by grants from the Art Works Fund, The Joyce Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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