Nova Scotia

Festival for artists with disabilities moves to historic, accessible location

An annual festival showcasing Halifax artists with disabilities moved into a new location this year, after renovations to a historic building opened up a space that was previously tough for people with physical disabilities to access. 

Recent renovations to the Halifax Brewery Market building opened up the space

The 8th annual Art of Disability Festival took place Sunday in the Halifax Brewery Market. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

An annual festival showcasing Halifax artists with disabilities moved into a new location this year, after renovations to a historic building opened up a space that was previously tough for people with physical disabilities to access. 

The Art of Disability Festival moved to the Halifax Brewery market building for its eighth year on Sunday. Thirty-five artists and performers offered up tables of paintings, photos, poetry, jewelry, books and more. 

"It's really cool, especially because this is one of the historic property buildings," said the festival organizer Asia Holloway.

"I know that often those buildings have even more structural barriers to people with disabilities. Often they can also be difficult to renovate, because of the historic significance of them," she said.

Asia Holloway is the Art of Disability festival organizer. (CBC)

According to a Parks Canada database of historic places in Canada, the brewery building was built by Alexander Keith in 1837. It has a municipal heritage designation. 

The current property owner, Killam Investments, made renovations to the building last year which made it easier for wheelchairs to access the space. 

"I think it's really cool that this building is proving that you can make historic buildings accessible to everybody," said Holloway.  

Being able to exhibit her work at the Art of Disability Festival is a big deal for poet Anna Quon, who often writes about mental health.

"My writing is my way of sharing my ideas," she said.

Anna Quon is a Halifax poet and mental health advocate. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

"A lot of people with disabilities, with mental health challenges or something, don't necessarily find employment. They might struggle with poverty. Being able to do art or create things that other people value makes you feel good."   

The festival, which is hosted by the organization Independent Living Nova Scotia, has been held in the past at locations such as the Westin hotel and the Alderney Landing event space. 

Shelley Adams, who knits and makes jewelry, said the brewery location gets a lot of foot traffic.

Shelley Adams is a visually-impaired artist who makes jewelry and knitted products for sale. (CBC)

"Here I feel like people are kind of walking through, or coming through to come to restaurants," she said.  

"I think it means that we all have more exposure and hopefully we'll make a few more sales than we did last year, and people will get to know who we are."

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Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca