“From Outsider to Participant: Developmentally Disabled Dialogue in Socially Engaged Art,” Museums and Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse, Volume 9, No. 2, October, 2014.
How can the museum incorporate the voice of the developmentally disabled artist? How can the very idea of dialogue be reconsidered through the interactions that the museum curator might develop with artists that have atypical cognitive abilities? I trace these questions through an examination of a video and the circumstances around it, entitled CREATE: The Artists Are Present (2011), which showcases a series of interviews with developmentally disabled artists from Creative Growth in Oakland, Creativity Explored in San Francisco and National Institute for Art and Disability (NIAD) in Richmond, California. The interviews were conducted by self-identifying physically disabled artists as a reaction against the lack of self-representation of the interviewed artists in the large-scale exhibition, CREATE (2011), co-curated by Lawrence Rinder, Director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives (BAMPF), California, and Matthew Higgs, Director of White Columns, New York. This paper argues that the very nature of artist/curator dialogue and socially engaged art practices in the museum can be deepened and enriched by much more variegated forms of communication amongst those typically occupying the margins.