Gwenn Seemel on Art Accessibility

I was honored to read this great blog by Gwenn Seemel, an artist I greatly admire. My comments on accessibility don’t always lead to positive response or to positive action. I’m so glad Gwenn gets it — that making the world easier for people with disabilities take nothing from people who are able-bodied and it makes life easier for everyone.

It’s a different issue, but when I first started using a wheelchair full time, I didn’t know how important it was to call ahead when I planned to go to an art gallery. I understand that small galleries often are trying to find a space with cheap rent, so I know it’s not always possible or a priority to make their space accessible. And able-bodied people don’t think of it. I’ve encountered shock and embarrassment when people realize their space is not accessible. (It doesn’t always lead to action.)

I usually go to galleries with friends since I don’t drive. A few times, I’ve had to sit outside the venue because there were stairs. I’ve gotten offers to be carried up stairs, but I always refuse. It’s a dangerous offer, even though offered in kindness. Anyone attempting it can stumble or strain their back, and we’ll all end up hurt.

I always call ahead now and am often told the venue is not open to me.

It’s frustrating, so I’m always grateful when galleries and artists post their work online. And Gwenn is very public with her work, so I can always look at her deep and delightful paintings. Plus, she makes books of her works, so I can get my hands on them.

If a gallery is accessible, and the paintings or art are displayed at my eye level — a little lower for people in wheelchairs and children — it’d be like heaven.

See Gwenn’s blog about accessibility here: https://gwennseemel.com/blog/2021/0731-disablility/

photos by Gween Seemel

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