Livestreamed on this page from Monday 1 June to Friday 5 June 2020 at 8 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-8) / 10 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 11 a.m. EDT (Boston, UTC-4) / 4 p.m. BST (UTC+1).
Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation (UP) Award (ASL-interpreted)
Celebrating excellence in access and inclusion throughout the Commonwealth’s cultural sector
Mass Cultural Council presented the Universal Participation (UP) Award livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv from Monday 1 June to Friday 5 June 2020 at 8 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-8) / 10 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 11 a.m. EDT (Boston, UTC-4) / 4 p.m. BST (UTC+1).
Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation (UP) Award celebrates excellence in access and inclusion throughout the Commonwealth’s cultural sector. This year we are hosting a five-part, livestreamed event with HowlRound.
As part of this celebration, we will honor eight UP Designated Organizations (one will receive the 2020 UP Award and a $10,000 prize!), highlight musical performances by Massachusetts artists, and offer a daily universal design challenge to viewers to complete at home to brush up on their access knowledge.
This event will be captioned and interpreted in American Sign Language. If you have additional questions or access requests, please contact Angelina Lupini (email@example.com).
Anita Walker: Good morning, I'm Anita Walker at the Mass Cultural Council. And welcome to the fifth day of our celebration of inclusion, the UP Awards. We have been building every day this week toward Friday. And today we build for a better future. I'm Anita Walker, executive director of Mass Cultural Council. I'm a woman in my 60s, I have shoulder length hair. I'm wearing a cream-colored top. And I have a block gold necklace that is I have to say made by a Massachusetts artist. With me is Charles Baldwin who is our program officer and leader of the UP program in Massachusetts. Charles, it has been an amazing week.
Charles Baldwin: Good morning, Anita. It has really been a great week. My name is Charles Baldwin, I am the program officer for the Universal Participation Initiative, what we call UP, I am an older white gentleman with a beard, glasses, and a mohawk. Today, to be a little more formal, I am wearing a blue coat. It's far too warm for the blue coat, but for this half-hour, it's an opportunity to display and model that I think sometimes the seriousness of this initiative. The work and the actions.
Anita: Serious and celebratory at the same time. Today, we're going to revisit the organizations that have shown exemplary work and inclusion, and we are going to tell you which of these organizations is receiving a $10,000 grant from the Mass Cultural Council to continue their work. You know, Charles, I've been thinking about this week. We talk about a lot of the critical characteristics of a successful UP program. They have leadership, they have commitment throughout the organization, they are persistent, and they act. But I have a riddle for you. Are you up for a riddle? Are you up for--
Charles: Oh, sure.
Anita: Can you be inclusive without being inclusive? Does inclusion require inclusion?
Charles: That is a riddle. But I would say yes. I mean, some of this work, which makes it so important, is there's a nimble quality that is necessary. Because, if you're working off a checklist and you think, access is merely around physical accoutrement, around the building, that's not enough. A key part of this is really identifying people who are experiencing barriers and dismantling them. So, inclusion is embedded in inclusion and should always be considered growing. Because as soon as you think you're done, someone else might knock on the door. And our responsibility is to be accessible to our communities.
Anita: That’s why we call the program UP. It's a direction. We specifically and intentionally designed this program not to have an end, but to be in a way infinite. Because we will always be finding ways to be better. You know, Charles, you, you really have brought this, this program to life in a way that I don't think anyone else could have. But it started just a few minutes before you joined us. And really, the catalytic event that brought UP into existence was a profound tragedy, much like what we're going through today. And it was the marathon bombings. We had been thinking a lot about doing something at the Mass Cultural Council to really amplify inclusivity. But there was a moment where we realized that it isn't about them and helping them. It's about us and it could be us at any moment in time, which is what we learned in the marathon bombing. So, this is about universal participation. It isn't about special things for special people, put the ramp in the back and you come in a different way. We'll have separate different programming. It's really about benefiting, when we benefit one person, we benefit all.
Charles: And I really believe that. I'm a great proponent of the history of this moment, recognizing who has been working to get us here. And, Judy Human, who, of course, is a little more famous now because of the film "Crip Camp," but has been a leader in the independent living movement. And her perspective on looking through the disability lens to identify these barriers and to help dismantle them really makes an accommodation and an inclusion that doesn't divide us by color, or gender, or size, or age, or ability. And I think that that is super important to recognize that this work, while it looks through the disability lens, is really about this intersectional approach to oppression.
Anita: And when I think about inclusion requiring inclusion, in order to be inclusive, it almost seems like well that is obvious, except that it doesn't seem to be obvious in reality. There are so many good intentions sitting around a board room table, or in an executive office and those intentions are embodied in people that look like you and me, Charles. At the table are not the people like you and me want to include. It's not possible to be authentic in this work without setting aside our own hubris, even our own best intentions and giving away our power and sharing it with others.
Charles: I think the success of this program is actually not about me. You have given me this platform, which is great. But what makes this program work are the artists that I have the opportunity to work with, to listen to, and enact. Because turning words into action is really what this is about. So that you can sit around the boardroom table and talk, talk, talk. But how do we get other people at that table? How do we get that table to have multiple levels so that varying people can sit in it? And who does or doesn't even need a chair? Who wants to stand? So, it's really recognizing, sometimes, that the table itself just to keep this metaphor going, that the table itself could be a barrier. And are there other ways to gather people, listen to them, and enact upon those words?
Anita: So Charles, part of our program is to provide resources, to help all of the good intentions and all of our amazing organizations. And I do want to pause a moment 'cause we've been focusing on a relatively small and exemplary group of organizations but we've got about seven organizations, 70, seven zero, 70 organizations that have raised their hands, that have stepped up, and have not just said, "We want to be inclusive, "we want to get the UP label." But they they're putting the work in.
Charles: They are, we've got about excuse me, about 70 different organizations that have raised their hand and said, "I want in." Some are organizations that by their very mission are doing the work. Some have said, "I need to learn more." So we provide an opportunity for both, to come in to this work, to activate the resources that we've identified that are really throughout the commonwealth. And I also have to say, I know there is good work being done out there that I would love to have the opportunity to amplify. And I also know that there are other organizations who are looking for that stewardship and the Mass Cultural Council's UP initiative can help provide that.
Anita: You do so much work in your learning networks. And I think being in it together, having a cohort, learning from each other, not in a shaming sort of way, "you're doing it wrong, here's the right way to do things," but in a "let's all help each other" way. Can you give us a little insight into what some of these workshops and some of your learning network convenings are like?
Charles: Well it's true. I am not a punitive person. I'm a come on, everybody, let's put on a show kind of guy. And I think that the successes actually comes from having lots of different people in the room. Our very diversity adds to the strength of this program, so that we are certainly looking at physical spaces, but we've been looking at digital spaces too. We also think about communication and information systems and how that environment can use a little help when we're thinking about access and how do we reach the most people? We definitely think about learning and how that needs to, again, reach a variety of people so that everyone has the opportunity to be the best they can be. I also really believe in artist-led initiatives, so the more times I have the opportunity to put an artist at the front of the room, so that everyone has this chance to co-create and imagine, because out of those imagination ideations, real concrete steps emerge. Steps that we may not even have identified as these are the steps towards access and inclusion, but they allow for risk. And I think that is something that we often miss out on when we're focused on bottom lines and just the day-to-day work of an organization.
Anita: It’s interesting to me having watched this over these years that we've been doing the UP program, is it's so many contradictions, so many opposing ideas at the same time. It's both tactical, do you have stickers on the windows so somebody doesn't actually walk through that piece of plate, that's very tactical. Do you have illumination on the stairs and some contrasting tape on the edge so that people don't go spilling down the stairs because they can't see where the edge is? So, there's tactical considerations that organizations share with each other and these networks. But you know the big piece is culture change. And culture change is patient change, it's slow change. And the contradiction here, or the opposing forces are our sense of urgency. We have to do something. We have to meet the moment. We can see right in front of us, it's taken too long, but it can't always be done fast.
Charles: It’s true. I think that we need to, this is why sometimes I described the UP program as both responsive and aspirational. Because we do need to navigate the immediate needs with the needs that we anticipate on the horizon. And navigating, or balancing between those two is of critical importance. And I think that when we gather in a room to discuss, or co-create, to think about next steps, we're thinking about the immediate steps that we can take, but we're always thinking about the horizon. And I think in many ways, that can empower our plurality, our distinctions, actually, allow us the diversity of ideas, diversity of actions, but we all have this idea that the horizon can be better, stronger, safer, and that's what's important.
Anita: I’m also thinking back to sort of the beginnings, scaffolding of our UP program. And one of the foundations is the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the things that sort of made us know we needed to do something is we kept hearing from organizations when we would talk about the ADA, "Just tell me what I have to do. "Oh, there's so many rules and regulations." This thing that was born as a beacon felt like a burden in our field, felt like an obligation, felt like a bureaucratic set of big bathrooms and ugly ramps that we're gonna ruin the aesthetic quality of our building. And we knew that our field, which is creative, which is innovative, and which is aspirational, that is in our DNA, we're the field to re-excite people around this civil rights movement, which gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is the foundation of the work, but use it not as the goal, not as the ceiling, but as the floor of the work. How do we take this and build on it?
Charles: I can't agree more. I think that, you know, civil rights actions under the ADA are the foundation for this work. But nothing against all of the work that our peers in government do, but when has near compliance been something a creative or artist wants to address? I want to go above and beyond, to be thinking about, again, the importance of our diversity and our differences allowing us to be a healthier, stronger, creative community. So, we've got that floor, but I always want to go above and beyond. And another reason why as far as acronyms go, I'm a big fan of UP.
Anita: Because you always want to go up, Charles. Before we get into, I want to revisit the amazing organizations we met this week. But before we do, for some of our listeners and viewers, there's more information that you can access from our website.
Charles: Yes, on this final day, we do want to encourage people to go to our website, look up MassCulturalCouncil.org/UPaward. It will give you access to the initiative, some of the challenges that we put out there, to get people thinking about interpretation, description. And also, there were resources with other organization that are out there. So do look at MassCulturalCouncil.org/UPaward, it has the organizations we work with, the goals of this initiative, and being a state agency, it does have an evaluation so that I can collect some data. Thank you.
Anita: Yes, we're bureaucrats at heart, nevertheless, aspirations notwithstanding. So Charles, let's take a little trip down memory lane since Monday. I wanted to walk through these amazing organizations that we got to meet. We got to visit with their leaders and we got to know a little bit better this week. And I want to ask you if you will just give us one reflection on each. One thing that we can all take away from our conversation, discussion, and familiarity with these organizations. And I'm gonna start with Abilities Dance.
Charles: Abilities Dance is a new and driving force in the dance world. I must say, they are under Ellice Patterson's leadership, they are redefining the choreograph gesture, how we look at space and place and even this idea of aesthetics, she really challenges the viewer and the listener to look deeply at really her work, which is dense and profound and strikingly beautiful.
Charles: ArtsEmerson has really, they have really boosted access to not only include the different enhancements and services that people with disabilities might need, but their approach is truly intersectional. They are putting marginalized voices center stage and they are activating their audiences to participate in it. It's a remarkable organization that has really become driven under the leadership of both David Dower, David House, and their wonderful team, strong group.
Anita: Our next organization, Discovery Museum.
Charles: Discovery Museum has got it going on. Their work with young children is imbued with universal design for learning techniques, before maybe even they had the language for that. Working with young children, thinking about early ed, thinking about child development is critically important for all of us. And they have really embraced the practices and principles of intentional inclusive design, wonderful organization.
Anita: Tower Hill Botanic Garden.
Charles: Tower Hill Botanic Garden, I was so excited to see that they were nominated because we do work with a number of organizations that have land and space, and the importance of nature, particularly as we look at the way the biodiversity is so important to an ecosystem, that is reflected in our human diversity as well. Their work has been so intentional after these last couple of years to really embrace the importance of getting outside. And beautiful work, and a wonderful, wonderful space.
Anita: And finally, Wheelock Family Theatre.
Charles: I promise not to go on and on about Wheelock Family Theatre, which for people who may not be in the know, I was involved with for many years. What I think is important about Wheelock is that from its very first day, inclusion model that was colorful, that was providing services, that put everybody on stage and backstage is truly reflected in their audience and all the work they do. Boston should be proud to have an organization like Wheelock Family Theatre still in its orders today.
Anita: And just a reminder, these are five of 70 similar organizations that are participating in our UP program. You know, Charles, as I listened to you, and I look at this list, I see this is a great diversity of organizations, botanical centers, and theatres, and dance companies. And I think about they're from all over the state, and they're all different sizes, large, medium, and small. There's such a great, diverse landscape for us to experiment and learn and work on how to be inclusive. But there are also commonalities. And when I look at these, I look at the strength of commitment, this leadership in these organizations. This not just talk, but translating intention into action and actual real things. And I also noticed, and this has kinda struck me, I think, this week in a way that it hasn't before, it's how comprehensive their work is. It isn't just sort of a token thing. We have this exhibit here or we're gonna do a thing over here. It is truly integrated and embedded into every part of the organization. And it sees the visitor in the audience from a place that begins before they leave the house.
Charles: What I love about all of these organizations, they do have the drive and the vision. So, from the President of the Board, to Sunday's volunteer, everyone understands. But also what resonates, and I think this really touches us upon, you know, these organizations were nominated by their peers in the UP initiative. And, the idea that we are continually learning. And that's not just internally on the inside of the organization, making sure that your staff and your Board and your volunteers are all on point, but they share with the field. So that it's not isolated, it does become part of a movement. And I think these five organizations were nominated this year really because they share their work. They're not separate from each other. They are involved in this movement to embrace inclusion and the actions that take us further along to a brighter horizon.
Anita: People may be wondering, so, who are these peers, and how are these organizations selected. So, the peers are people who are in our UP network. So they actually, it's kind of like the Oscars, they had to watch the movie. They really do know who these organizations are. This is when these organizations were selected, it was from a base of knowledge. Tell us about the panel who had to make these really, really difficult decisions.
Charles: I was overjoyed to have a very strong panel of artists and activists who were participating in the evaluation of, I think we ended up about with 16 nominations, and then we were able to get it down to eight just so that it was not a 10-hour program. But, Adrian Anantawan, who is a musician, who we will hear at the end of the program was on that panel. Maria Cabrera who used to be with the Museum of Science is a fantastic community organizer and engagement person, I had the opportunity to work with her, Ethan Linsky who works with Epic. Epic is a teen job program out of Triangle which works with youth and disabilities that is, again, integrating them into society. He also does improv comedy. So Ethan was there. Rhianon Gutierrez who works with the Boston Public School System in their digital learning, amazing woman, so strong. And I have to say I have gotten a few tips from her on this digital landscape, which has been super important. Additionally, Adrian, Maria, and oh, Amber Pearcy. Amber is a consultant who I had the opportunity to meet. She works for the Braille Press, but is really working the inroads with cultural organizations to think about inclusion and to think about the audience that doesn't see. Strong, upcoming consultant. Really happy to work with her.
Anita: Thank you so much, panelists, 'cause I know you did a lot of work, and it had to be a very, very difficult decision. But what an amazing group. Charles, we've also had this week tremendous guests and keynote speakers.
Charles: I have been delighted to, you know, this is a physical program in universal design. I didn't want to just tell people, I wanted to show people. And I had the opportunity, again, to meet and work alongside some wonderful artists. And, so, when we have the physical program, which turned into a virtual program, we were able to honor all of those requests. So, Precious Lopez from the Berkeley College was able to join us. She and her fiance, Shane Lowe. Caroline Whiddon from Me2/Orchestra was on Wednesday, beautiful performance. Honest, honest and authentic. Yesterday, we had Queen Mab which worked a performance from the tempest that is both in English and in ASL. Today we'll be joined by Adrian Anantawan who I see popped onto the screen. And of course a special shout out to Sara Minkara who gave the keynote. I have been wanting to work with her for a while, she runs a wonderful organization out of Cambridge, and she speaks her truth and she speaks something that all of us need to hear. So I was delighted that Sara Minkara was able to join us. Really strong program, strong artists, and activists.
Anita: So, Charles, the moment has arrived.
Anita: I’ve been talking about one organization receiving a $10,000 grant. And we know that everyone who cares about justice and inclusion is feeling a certain level of pain in these current times. So, we're hoping that this honor, this recognition of this work, serves as both a balm to help ease us through that pain, but also fuel, to accelerate and excite the work, because it's more important now than ever before. So, we have five organizations, four of them will receive $1,000 grants from the Mass Cultural Council. And again our fifth organization will receive a $10,000 grant. And, Charles, we always, a little arm wrestle over the envelope. I think I have it in my hand.
Charles: I think, Anita, it's been a joy to co-host with you. I would like you to read it.
Anita: I would like to say first of all, exemplary work, we are in awe and bowed to the work of Wheelock Family Theatre, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Discovery Museum, and ArtsEmerson, all of whom will receive a $1,000 grant from the Mass Cultural Council. And our $10,000 grant goes to Abilities Dance. Charles, would you introduce Ellice?
Charles: I am delighted, because I think she is a leader and a voice, her peers have designated her so, and I believe so as well. Please welcome Ellice Patterson of Abilities Dance, and congratulations.
Elice Patterson: Thank you and thank you to the Mass Cultural Council and my colleagues who have chosen to honor us with this prestigious award. We are so grateful to you and our community to be able to do and be recognized for this work. So, I had this whole thing prepared where I was going to say all of this, sound super hopeful of the future and how we can move forward together. But I'm tired of that corporate nonsense, you're tired of that corporate nonsense. Because, I mean, how many emails have we received from every entity ever with the subject line of, Black Lives Matter, or we stand in solidarity with the Black community with the same empty language? And how many of these organizations have Black representation or any representation of color in their Board of Directors or executive leadership? And do they even consult Black people in the writing of those emails? So, I'm going to pivot a little and say that the new theme of today is representation. Because representation is transformative. Our representation transforms words into action. Representation is equity. Representation is inherent in intersectional disability rights. And representation is Abilities Dance Boston. This whole organization was created on my personal experience of not being able to perform professionally elsewhere in the Greater Boston area. And honestly, I couldn't afford to move where the other integrated dance companies were, nor should I, because this is my home. And I wasn't seeing myself represented on stage. I wasn't seeing professional Disabled companies perform on stage, except the few times I had AXIS Dance Company from California would come into town. I wasn't seeing nearly enough Black and other dancers of color tell their stories in the larger venues like museums, for instance. And I definitely wasn't seeing the intersections of these identities like Black and Disabled, or Disabled, queer, non-binary first generation, or non-Disabled Chinese immigrant. So many more that should be given work opportunities because they're so inherent to the makeup of our state, our country and humanity. And so, Abilities Dance Boston was born on the few hundred dollars from tips working in a bar, and the vision of what I think Boston can be. And the work has been harder than I ever thought it would be. There have been so many challenges, and the overall challenge that I still have a separate full-time job like everyone else in the company since the budget is still considerably lower than the more established entities. But, we're so committed to this work, because you can tell when you come into our performances or workshops that this feels different. We're not just a dance company creating work for the sake of moving, I personally don't have that privilege, and if I move, there's intentionality behind it that ties into the overall movement. Nor is this a space to provide a platform so that people can express themselves and feel good about themselves. Yikes, hard no. Our professional performing company has adult artists from across the country and that includes Disabled and non-Disabled dancers and choreographers, musicians and composers of live audio description editor to ensure audio descriptions, which if you don't know, those are words that explain the movement to blind audiences so we're making sure those are to the community. Captioning for our Deaf and hard of hearing audiences and more, so that people are able to be paid for their work, because it is work, and challenge the antiquated ableist beliefs of what disability looks like and who gets to be represented. There's so much diversity within and outside the Disabled community because I want that representation to match what our society looks like. And most importantly, so the next generation can see versions of themselves on stage and never question if the dance space or any space is for them. Our community engagement program works with hospitals, universities, after-school programs, financial institutions, and more to have movement workshops or lectures on disability culture, intersectionality, entrepreneurship and more, so most importantly, lead to a conversation about making both of our spaces equitable for everyone. It's been my favorite experience because I'm able to connect with people and explain that this work is relevant to your work and to your community as we work together for a more equitable tomorrow. Our education program teaches adaptive ballet, modern, contemporary technique as there are still so many places in the area that won't teach us equitably so that we can train the next generation of dancers, and that also gives me hope for a more informed and more equitable future. So, big shout out to the 30 folks within the organization that do so much to make Abilities space, first space, and everyone's space. Thank you to everyone in our community that have held me especially this week but always year round. Thanks to my mother and grandmother who raised me to be the fierce person that you see today. And this award will help continue the work on an even bigger platform as we continue to make a better Massachusetts and beyond so that we all can finally breathe. Thank you.
Anita: Thank you so much, Ellice. That was absolutely powerful. And couldn't have been a better way to capture, what we've been trying, Charles and I, all week to capture and to share with our viewers and everyone. Ellice, you're amazing. Thank you, a big shout out to you. Charles, as usual, we tend to talk too much, you and I, so we want to keep moving forward. First of all, a thank you to everyone who has participated. Behind the scenes, Howlround who kept us on—
Charles: Big shout out to Howlround TV, the Theatre Commons, a really accessible, professional, wonderful organization, thank you, thank you.
Anita: Thank you to Angelina who is behind the scenes and has been handling all of our details from the Mass Cultural Council every day and the rest of the team back at Mass Cultural Council who's been promoting, marketing, pushing this out, and just being supportive every single day. And even the people in Charles's row who teaches him about the logic model which he reads with enthusiasm. But, Charles, I think a great way to complete our week is with art. Because John F. Kennedy said, "Art is not a form of propaganda, art is a form of truth." And I think truth is what we have been trying to speak during the course of the week. And the art speaks it better than anything.
Charles: Yes, we have and will run a little over, but I do hope that listeners and viewers will stay. Adrian Anantawan who is actually popped in here, thank you, Adrian, has provided some commentary and music that I couldn't think of a better way to close this program. He speaks eloquently and performs emotionally. It's a beautiful, beautiful way to end this program. So, again, a shout out to everyone who's been involved and all of the artists that we've had the opportunity to work with. I'm thrilled that peers, the panelists have chosen Ellice to receive this grant. Congratulations. And I guess now we will end with some beautiful music and some profound words from our friend and our colleague, Adrian Anantawan, thank you.
[A pre-recorded video plays.]
Adrian Anantawan: Hi there, my name is Adrian Anantawan. I am a violinist who lives in Massachusetts and I want to thank the Mass Cultural Council for having me here, at least virtually. And to congratulate all of the winners of the UP Award, and all of those who continue to do work around arts, equity, and inclusion. These are very difficult times in this nation. And originally I had completely different pieces to play for you. But I thought that these two pieces in particular that I'm going to play are powerful and resonant of the times. "Schindler's List," the theme, comes from this question of what is the value of human life? And the idea of hope that through suffering, if you can save one person, you save the world entire. And I think that's so important as we feel out of control and what can we do to be able to change entire systems? We can save one person, or we can help one person, we are helping the entire world. The second piece that I'm going to play is called "Salut d'Amour" by Edward Elgar, an English composer from the 19th century and this is a piece that I think consistently reminds me as we say farewell to those we love, there can still be tremendous beauty that is left in this world. So be well wherever you are, and, again, thank you for having me here, take care.
[For several minutes, Adrian plays the violin.]
About HowlRound TV
HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world's performing arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal/WhatsApp. View the video archive of past events.