Written in the summer, 2011
I'm just going to have a bit of a rant here. You don't have to read it.
About a month and a half ago I applied for a mentorship program with a local arts group. TheArts are known for open-mindedness and an ability to embrace differences.
I feel as though the arts has decided that their work with inclusion and recognition is finished. Aboriginal artists are recognized, and programming and financial grants abound. GBLT artists and visible minorities have also found support. There is now support for new immigrants as well. What I do not see working is any real understanding and support for artists with disabilities. I feel as though we are the minority of all minorities. We can be any colour, culture, religion, political leaning, sexuality, economic level, gender, etc. and yet despite the breadth of who can be a person with a disability (anyone and anytime) we remain a very complicated niche minority of invisibility combined with the undisguised stares of society.
I received an email today telling me that I had not been chosen to be mentored by a senior artist. This was my third application in five years, so when I read at the bottom of the email that I was "encouraged to apply again", I just sighed and thought, fuck.
I don't know if applicants are weeded out before the committee of mentors review the applications. I would like to know. I would also like to know why I have been unsuccessful in my applications. I would like to know why the board that I am on has been unsuccessful so often in our applications of support (as a group of artists with disabilities).
If one more person running an arts council suggests that professional artists with disabilities should be applying for a health care structured arts program I will spit. I'm not looking for art as therapy.
I just want to know that I am working on a level playing field, but I'm not. I work my ass off. I have given up so much of my personal time in order to make things better in my province, but really, I'm preaching to the choir.
I'm tired of giving and not getting and I don't want someone to tell me today that hopefully soon I will be offering to mentor someone. I want to be mentored right now. I WANT. I am not ready to be all fucking rosie about what my career may be couple of years from now. I am tired of waiting for everything. Today I am bitter and angry and tired and frankly I am allowed to be feel those things sometimes. Telling people to think on the positive side can be incredibly patronizing and is not the best response when people are upset. At least that's the case for me. First I need to grieve or sit with my disappointment before I am ready to look on the bright side.
I have volunteered for almost two decades for one thing or another. One time I did manage to get a couple of contracts, after volunteering for a few months. But at this point I have given and given and I am tired. I actually feel kind of stupid for ever thinking that if I just kept giving that I might in return find myself on the receiving end of something good.
Right now I kind of hate the happy people that tell me to be positive, or to just look forward to better times. Would the people giving me that kind of advice please put up their hands. Now keep up your hands if you were you born with a disability or have a disability now? Have you had your human rights ignored over and over again because of your disability? Have you, like me, never had a permanent job? Put up your hands if you've earned more than $24,000.00 dollars in a year. I'll have to keep my hand down for that one. Did you have babies that you couldn't carry around on your own and so you feared that social services would swoop in as soon as the public health nurse came for her first home visit to check up on "mom and baby"? Did your father in law tell you to only have one child because your mother was already helping so much, when in reality your mother works five days a week, lives in a different neighborhood and doesn't have a drivers license?
I hate that I couldn't get a fine art degree when I went to university. I was financially supported by the provincial government and but they would not support me in the pursuit of a fine arts degree (it was "not a viable career".) I feel cheated.
So here I am 23 years later, a professional-emerging artist. The taste of irony is bitter.