Artists with disabilities take centre stage in Winnipeg

For playwright Debbie Patterson, it was a big move to even join Art & Disability Network Manitoba. "I guess that has to do with when I decided I would identify myself as disabled," reflected Patterson, who has been battling M.S. for years.

Art+Body: See Me Hear at Winnipeg Art Gallery on Oct. 11

Playwright Debbie Patterson will read from her play Sargent & Victor and Me at Art+Body: See Me Hear. (Leif Norman)

For playwright Debbie Patterson, it was a big move to even join Art & Disability Network Manitoba ​(ADNM). "I guess that has to do with when I decided I would identify myself as disabled, and it's a gradual process," reflected Patterson, who has been battling M.S. for years. 

Playwright Debbie Patterson will give a reading of her play Sargent & Victor & Me at an event presented by ADNM, on Friday, October 11. "I feel like artists with disabilities have a unique view of the world that is of value to people without disabilities as well as people with disabilities," said Patterson. 

"As artists it's our job to unearth the dangerous truths that we carry within ourselves and to express those in a way that's easy for other people to recognize and to understand and to get behind," Patterson continued. "And I think the dangerous truths that people with disabilities carry inside ourselves are not unique to people with disabilities."

ADNM was started as a way to promote local artists with disabilities and to break the stigma that sometimes exists facing these artists. Often even the artists wish to hide their disabilities, said Janet Adamana of ADNM. 

"What we're trying to do is to bring that out in the light and try to say that people with disabilities -- it's not a hindrance, it's more like its something that provides artists with a different perspective," she said.

Playwrite Debbie Patterson (Leif Norman)
The show on Oct. 11 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, called Art+Body: See Me Hear, is multifaceted. Debbie Patterson is joined on stage by Jeremy Rusu, a blind pianist; Burton Bird, an Aboriginal Hoop Dancer who is deaf; and comedian Big Daddy Tazz who suffers from mental illness.

There will also be a showcase of visual arts by members of ADNM and a juried arts exhibition in an adjacent room.

Patterson's play deals with her experiences interviewing colourful residents of the Sargent and Victor area in Winnipeg's West End. She feels there is great value in presenting this particular work at this event.

"I think we have a special window on an aspect of a universal human experience that other people don't have a window on," she said. "The work I want to present is about addressing fears of becoming useless and I think that's something we all share, just addressing questions of usefulness in society."


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