Institute Awarded Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

May 2012
edited August 2017

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University has been awarded a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program. The Institute's "Visionary Voices" program was one of only six programs in the Philadelphia area to receive a 2012 grant. In this $75,000 planning project, the Institute will explore the potential of public performance to engage the larger community in a dialogue around disability issues and contribute to the greater body of knowledge about the experience of intellectual disability, and its impact on families and communities.

Working in partnership with theater director David Bradley, Co-Artistic Director of the National Constitution Center's recent exhibition/theater piece Fighting for Democracy, and playwright Suli Holum, the Institute will create a public performance inspired by the oral histories collected for Visionary Voices.

For nearly a year, Visionary Voices has been interviewing individuals who played a significant role in Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disabilities Movement. By the end of 2012, 50 stories will be featured on the Visionary Voices website.

These interviews will provide primary source material for a public performance, which will dramatize the stories of Pennsylvanians—especially mothers—who became "accidental warriors" in the intellectual disability rights movement. The Institute will gather a group of stakeholders, theater professionals, and scholars of the movement for workshops, to discuss how successfully the performance illustrates this history and connects the past to present-day issues and policies. Facilitated question and answer sessions after each performance will allow the Institute to revise and refine its final approach to the use of performance in informing dialogue and disseminating this important historical information.

Celia S. Feinstein, Co-Executive Director of the Institute on Disabilities, who developed and leads the Visionary Voices project, says that the a performance project is is an entirely different approach for the Institute. "We are excited at the prospect of helping to educate and inform ALL Pennsylvanians about this history and its relevance to our present and to our future."

"Both the Visionary Voices project, and our planned public performance explore a fascinating part of Pennsylvania's history that has remained largely hidden," says Lisa Sonneborn, Visionary Voices Project Coordinator. "Through public performance we hope to bring serious and timely subject matter to the attention of new audiences - this is especially important today, as significant funding cuts now threaten to unravel decades of advocacy and advancement."

Other programs to receive 2012 grants from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia Program include The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia that plans to revitalize the John Coltrane House, The Legacy Center at Drexel University's College of Medicine that will develop a digital history toolkit documenting the stories women who challenged the status quo in the field of medicine, the Scribe Video Center who will produce Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project.

To visit the Visionary Voices website, go to:

To read the press release from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia Program, and to read about all of the awards and recipients, go to: [link no longer valid]


Lisa Sonneborn
Project Coordinator | Visionary Voices
Tel. 215-204-9542
Cel. 215-284-4045

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Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service