In 2015, College of Arts and Sciences art history Professor Romita Ray organized the University’s first public Diwali celebration on campus. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Hindu festival held each October or November in India where…
BBI, Syracuse University Libraries Partner with Disability Writer, Scholar and Activist Kenny Fries on Arts Grant
Kenny Fries, a world-renowned poet, memoirist and disability arts leader and a professor in the creative writing master’s of fine arts degree program at Goddard College, will partner with the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), Syracuse University Libraries and “Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature” on a Canada Council for the Arts grant.
As a component of his three-year, multi-project grant, Fries will curate and edit “Disability Futures in the Arts,” a series of 15 essays by disabled artists to be published by “Wordgathering.” A leading accessible online literary publication for disability arts, “Wordgathering” is produced by BBI’s Office of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach and Syracuse University Libraries.
The subjects of “Disability Futures in the Arts” will relate to disabled artists’ personal practices, including disability representation, historical and contemporary role models, and important events in disability arts. “Wordgathering” will publish the series in December 2020, 2021-22 and 2022-23. Diane Wiener, research professor and associate director of BBI’s Office of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach and editor in chief of “Wordgathering,” has appointed Fries as the journal’s special guest editor for 2020-23.
“Kenny Fries is one of the leading disability arts scholars and supporters who has dedicated his life to bringing attention to disabled artists,” says Wiener. “His ‘Disability Futures in the Arts’ series will provide important historical documentation of the successes and challenges experienced by contemporary disabled artists and writers, as well as embolden mentorship, advance empowerment and create archival work.”
Fries says he intends to use his privilege as a pioneer in disability arts to foster an enduring connection between generations of disabled artists. Collectively, these projects funded by the Canada Council for the Arts will not only fill historical and cultural gaps, but also look at the historical and contemporary importance of disability culture.
“This reflection has become a more urgent goal, as the current coronavirus pandemic has brought to the surface the vulnerability of those who live with disabilities caused by the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of disabled lives,” adds Fries.
“Syracuse University is engaging with disability across its campus. The arts are vital to this. Along with the work of ‘Wordgathering,’ we’re launching a new online creative writing program for high school students with disabilities. Co-hosted by the Downtown Writer’s Center of the Syracuse YMCA and the Burton Blatt Institute, these workshops will be taught by distinguished disabled writers. There’s a lot more good news to come,” says Stephen Kuusisto, University Professor and director of BBI’s Office of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach.