April 21, 2009

Interact Center Overview

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The Interact Center was established in 1992 to provide a space for artists with disabilities to showcase and develop their talent. At first, they only focused on Performing Arts and since then, have also included a Visual Arts department. Today, they are the only organization in the nation that provides professional services for Artists who are disabled. The disabilities of the artists range from mental to behavioral to physical.

"Interact’s three overarching goals are:

—To provide artists with disabilities skills and opportunities for creative expression, artistic growth, professional performance and exhibition opportunities, and opportunities to earn income from their work.

—To challenge existing stereotypes that assume people with disabilities are not capable.

—To challenge the arts community to recognize and include the unique talents and vision of people who have long been marginalized.

Interact Founder/Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit has a long history in both theater and social services. Her committed advocacy for artists with disabilities has led to heightened public awareness that many people with disabilities are creative and talented, but that their creativity often is ignored or discouraged. Many of these people depend on assistance from local social service programs, but those programs are geared toward placing people with disabilities in minimal-skill, low-paying positions that may not challenge them.

At Interact, over 90 artists earn income through theater performances and sales of artwork in the organization’s public gallery, The Inside Out Gallery, the first gallery in the Twin Cities to feature Outsider art. Interact is now a vital participant in the Twin Cities arts community.

Regional and national performances and exhibitions by Interact artists enable the public to see work that is raw, honest and explores visions and voices that would otherwise not be seen or heard. Furthermore, Interact effectively demonstrates a progressive model for integrating artistic and social service systems in ways that build on people’s strengths, rather than focusing on their limitations."

(http://www.interactcenter.com/about_us/mission.html)

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When I first became involved with Interact Center, it was a long application process. I went to talk to the Volunteer Coordinator and had to fill out an application. Then, she had to run a background check on me and once that came out alright, I had to take a tour and meet some of the other employees first before being allowed to start at the Center. So, it took me several weeks to actual get into my field of research before I could work with my informant and observe this art world.