Common Pulse Arts & Disability Festival

September 7 – September 29, 2013
Durham Art Gallery, Durham, Grey County

Intersecting Abilities: Looking at Arts and Disability Differently

Throughout September, artists working in a variety of media will be visiting, performing and exhibiting in Durham as part of the Common Pulse Arts & Disability Festival. The festival is celebrating the intersection between art and ability and examines alternative approaches to understanding perception and cognition in the practice of artists, particularly artists who address diverse and different abilities and their related experiences.

Hosted by the Durham Art Gallery and organized in collaboration with OCAD University, Common Pulse brings together artists, community groups, researchers and activists to celebrate inclusiveness, accessibility, cultural diversity and artistic excellence.

Disability gives us unique voices and diverse perspectives, the very core of what we expect art to bring to our lives. It challenges us, individually and collectively, to expand the way we think about the world and the people we share it with. Disability creates a range of often enriching experiences from which artists make work that is interesting, meaningful, and important and that leads to new insights for both the artist and the viewer. Hearing, seeing and understanding the viewpoint of others is how we grow as individuals and how we progress as a society.

This year’s festival showcases art and promotes inclusion through exhibitions, multi-disciplinary performances, film presentations and a symposium. The month-long festival will engage, stimulate and inspire visitors through creative workshops, mentorships, artists’ talks and educational programming for schools.
© Gwynneth VanLaven

In addition, four artists in residence will spend the month of September creating new artworks and connecting with the community. Kazumi Tsuruoka, a singer with cerebral palsy, will produce a new performance together with area musicians. Emily Cook will develop her handmade paper objects that appeal as much to our sense of touch as to our sense of vision. Tom Leonhardt will be working on video projections that reflect the changes he has witnessed in his own brain’s functioning as the result of a stroke. Jes Sachse will create work that features her own, small body to challenge stereotypes about physical beauty.

The Common Pulse Arts & Disability Festival seeks to engage with artists and their practices on their own terms: to contextualize their work in ways that are meaningful to them and illuminating for the viewers, and which deepens appreciation for different modes of seeing, thinking and being as an artist. It provides an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the powerful contributions of individuals who have different experiences and different perspectives on society, life and art.

Common Pulse Festival Schedule

© David Bobier

>> Saturday, August 24 – Sunday, August 25
10:00 am – 4:00 pm All Access Workshop with Geoffrey Shea. Art making workshop specifically for children with special needs.

>> Saturday, August 31 – Sunday, September 1
10:00 am – 4:00 pm Emoti-Chair Workshop with David Bobier. Participants will be able to create their own compositions for this unique perceptual instrument.

>> Saturday, September 7
2:00 pm Exhibition Opening of Real or Perceived featuring artists Lorette C. Luzajic, Grahame Lynch and David Bobier and opening of the outdoor photo-based exhibition Altered Images presenting international photo artists: Ilsun Maeng, Kurt Weston, Laura Swanson, Gwynneth VanLaven, Bruce Hall, Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer, Matej Peljhan and Gus Cummins. Both exhibitions will run until November 3.

3:00 pm Public Demonstration of the Emoti-Chair with David Bobier, a seat that delivers music-like compositions directly through the skin and nerve endings on the listener’s back. Visitors will be able to try this experience.

>> Thursday, September 12 & 19
6:30 pm Informal Talks with the artists in residence, including a dinner at Rowan Moon Bistro and followed by visual presentations at the Durham Art Gallery.

>> Saturday, September 14 – Sunday, September 15
10:00 am – 4:00 pm Comic Workshop with Jeff Preston & Clara Madrenas. Comic making workshop for children & youth with the authors of the online comic Cripz Jeff Preston and Clara Madrenas.

>> Saturday, September 21
10.00 am – 4:00 pm Creative Workshop with the artists in residence. Art making workshop with the opportunity to interact with the artists and better understand their creative working process.

>> Friday, September 27 – Sunday, September 29
Closing Weekend of Common Pulse Festival
The festival will culminate with film screenings, performances, lectures and further exhibition openings featuring the resident artists as well as the online exhibition Cripping Cyberspace created in collaboration with the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies (University of Waterloo).

For contact, details and updates please go to