British Columbia

Can You See Us Vancouver? Art exhibition presented for people using wheelchairs

‘On some levels this is probably the most accessible art exhibition you will ever experience’, says curator

Cory Correia - CBC News

November 09, 2017

Artist, Athena Cooper presents her work at Can You See Us Vancouver? The exhibition is presented at the optimal height for the featured artists, who all use wheelchairs. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC News)

Can You See Us Vancouver is a distinct art exhibition in two ways, first as an exhibition featuring only artists who are living with disabilities, and second in that all the pieces are presented at the optimal height for people who use wheelchairs.

"Standard height in museums and galleries is either a 56 or a 60 inch center, and we chose 48 as the rounded number for people who use wheelchairs, for the artist to come and see the show from an optimal point of view," said Yuri Arajs, one of the exhibition's curators.

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"On some levels this is probably the most accessible art exhibition you will ever experience."

The exhibition features nine artists and is taking place from Nov. 6 to Dec. 1 at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver.

Athena Cooper is an acrylic and digital painter whose work is featured in the exhibition. She says wheelchair accessibility is one of the reasons why she hasn't shown off her work until now. 

"You know it's really difficult sometimes, even in this city where it is probably one of the more accessible cities in Canada. There's a lot of galleries that aren't even wheelchair accessible. It is a challenge to find a space that I can even get into," said Cooper. 

"This is a space that's easily accessible by public transit. You know there's an automatic door, there's a wheelchair bathroom, all these things that are important."

Art is presented at a height of 48 inches, as opposed to the standard height in galleries and museums of 56 or 60 inches. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC News)

Arajs says he wants this exhibit to challenge people's assumptions about artists who live with disabilities, and people with disabilities in general. 

"My goal with this exhibition is for all of those ideas to be thrown away, and to prove to you how great all the artwork is by all the artists that we're representing here," said Arajs. 

Cooper, who stands under 43 inches tall, echoes the goal of challenging how people look at her and other people living with disabilities.

"The fact that this show is called can you see us. I think that's a very interesting question because as a person with a disability I am very aware that people see me, but it's a question of how they see me, and what they see," said Cooper. 

"I'm really hoping that people take a look at this work and see the richness of experience, see what value that these people bring to the community and to the arts community as well."

With files from Margaret Gallagher and The Early Edition

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cory Correia
Reporter

Cory Correia is a reporter with CBC Vancouver. Send him an email at cory.correia@cbc.ca

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