VOICES: It is our responsibility as artists to bring everyone to the table

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly series from Rodney Veal that shares insights and stories from artists and creatives from all corners of our community. As the host of ThinkTV/CET Connect for nine years and a lifelong artist in his own right, Veal has a front-row seat to the impact our arts community has on the wellbeing of our region. With this series, Ideas & Voices hopes to inspire readers to pursue their own creative endeavors and to support those who make our community better through their artistic contributions.

As 2023 begins to wind down and we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I always give thanks for being surrounded by a tremendous amount of love from a great circle of friends and family. I am grateful for the ability to create art in various forms and blessed to be in relatively good health to pursue all of these artistic endeavors.

My gratitude also extends to organizations like the InsideOut Studios in Hamilton, Ohio, which provide spaces for artists with developmental disabilities the opportunity to flex their creative muscles.

I had a wonderful opportunity to tour their facilities in downtown Hamilton with Executive Director Kim Neal Davis. As you walk through the storefront, it is filled with colorful and expressive works of art in glass, ceramics, and paint. You then enter a workshop with many worktables, racks of supplies and materials, and one of the most dedicated groups of artists you would ever want to encounter working diligently on art. They were eager to share what they were working on and communicate their intentions behind their color choices and what the image they painted on the canvases represented. They were so proud of their accomplishments. Their joy and authenticity left me delighted beyond words and inspired by what I witnessed.

As a democratic society, we are facing a seismic shift regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Who gets to participate in the arts and cultural complex, who deserves access to resources and opportunities to explore and grow creatively, and who is seen and heard? While many arts organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve accessibility for the spectator, they also have another purpose: a responsibility to amplify the artistic output of the developmentally challenged community. It is also our responsibility as art patrons and citizens to go out of our way to support these artists and the organizations that serve them. InsideOut Studios, We Care Arts, and a plethora of other organizations have made it their mission to support this often neglected community.

For several years, the Sinclair Community College Theatre department has produced a holiday production of Charlie Brown Christmas with shadow interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing along with the actors on stage. This year, they are producing an original theatrical production called Twas The Night Before Christmas, And We Are Home Alone. I have the good fortune to provide choreography for the production. These shows always embrace the joy and magic of the holidays for all kinds of families. We all deserve to be able to partake in the transformative magic that is live theatre. The theatre department is committed to ensuring we include everyone in this holiday joy.

As we gather in homes to feast and gather with our loved ones this holiday season, I encourage all to consider what it means to be in a country and community awash in the abundance of creature comforts and opportunities. What are our duties to those who may not move, think, and express themselves the way we do? It is our responsibility to bring everyone to the table to share in the feast called America. We have it within us to be more humane and open to include everyone.

InsideOut Studios and other organizations like them are taking on the task of making that happen, and I am most grateful to them for their dedication. What a wonderful world indeed.

Rodney Veal is the host of thinkTV/CET Connect and President of the board of OhioDance.

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