Institute on Disabilities at Temple University Awarded Exhibits and Public Interpretation Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

June 2014

PHOTO: A Fierce Kind of Love cast members Marcia Saunders and Erin McNulty.
A Fierce Kind of Love cast members Marcia Saunders and Erin McNulty. Photo by Sergei Blair

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education, was awarded a $300,000 grant from the The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on June 16, 2014 for A Fierce Kind of Love: A Community Conversation in Performance, Image, Story and Dialogue.

In 2012, with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Institute began the development of "A Fierce Kind of Love (AFKOL)," a play inspired by Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disability Rights Movement. Written by Obie-nominated theatre artist Suli Holum and directed by Philadelphia director David Bradley, AFKOL is the centerpiece of a community history and civic dialogue project, offering multiple ways to interpret the rich history and prevailing issues of people with intellectual disabilities. The play will premiere in April of 2016; a yearlong series of coordinated community events will precede the play, and offer multiple points of entry into the history, themes, and interpretation at the heart of this project.

"With this additional support from The Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage, the Institute can continue to tell a heretofore untold civil rights story," says Celia Feinstein, Co-Executive Director of the Institute on Disabilities. "Reaching audiences through live performance and other events will help to advance the full inclusion of people with disabilities - a core objective of the Institute."

While drawing on conventional forms of public history and performance, AFKOL crosses the boundaries of both in its methods of gathering, shaping and presenting content. Informed by historical research and oral history interviews collected by the Institute's Visionary Voices project, AFKOL features a nine-person ensemble of professional actors and aspiring actors with Intellectual Disabilities. In this way, AFKOL models the Institute's value of inclusive practice by working with people with disabilities and families as first person sources and makers of creative content. Performances will be followed by Town Hall discussions facilitated by local artists and community stakeholders.

According to Producer Lisa Sonneborn, "AFKOL will engage people with disabilities (some for the first time) in the history of their Movement, and will introduce disability history to new audiences. By creating safe and inclusive spaces for conversation, we can begin to unravel complex and persistent issues facing the disability community."

Supporting AFKOL will be a yearlong roster of dynamic community programming. Key components of that programming include:

- Lives Lived Apart, a program which will invite volunteer "citizen recorders" to conduct interviews with people with intellectual disabilities who live and work in segregated settings;

- Sib Slam with First Person Arts, a series of storytelling workshops for sibling pairs, followed by a sibling themed night of story-telling (Sib Slam);

- Fierce Love, Activism and the Role of Parents, a colloquium led by a panel of nationally renowned disabilities studies scholars focused on the activism, the role parents continue to play in shaping disability policy, and the fierce love required to raise a child with a disability; and

- Stories in Play, an acting workshop which will explore using the techniques of theater, music and movement to bring personal and community stories to life.

Our project partners include Art-Reach, Animating Democracy and acclaimed photographer JJ Tiziou.

David Bradley, director of "A Fierce Kind of Love," is excited to be a part of this multifaceted project. "Making 'A Fierce Kind of Love' is a tremendous opportunity not only to tell important, and largely untold stories of courage and activism, but also to build a vision for inclusivity through a cast of diverse abilities sharing these stories in a multiplicity of ways."

Event dates, times and locations, as well as photographs and project updates can be found on the A Fierce Kind of Love website.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (the Center), established in 2005, is dedicated to simulating a vibrant cultural community in the greater Philadelphia region. The Center makes project grants in two areas, Performance and Public Interpretation, as well as awarding grants to individual artists through its Pew Fellowships. The Center also makes Advancement grants, substantial awards to high performing organizations seeking to make lasting improvements to their programming, audience engagement, and financial health. Each year, Center funding makes possible numerous performing arts events, as well as history and visual arts exhibitions and other public programs for audiences in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. The Center is also a hub for research and knowledge-sharing on issues critical to cultural practice.

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