Small grants, big impact

National Arts and Disability Center offers support to California artists with disabilities

“Drum Lab,” by Carol Es.

Artists with disabilities are artists first.

That’s item No. 1 on the agenda of the National Arts and Disability Center, a.k.a. the NADC. A close and nearly immediate second is support for that basic fact.

Artists with disabilities often have the same educational and training needs as their fellow artists, but encounter additional obstacles when pursuing their artistic careers. They frequently don’t have the same access to that schooling and training, or to employment opportunities beyond their education.

Artists with disabilities deserve to have the same level of participation in the arts as any other artists. They deserve to be held to the same standards. And people with disabilities, whether or not they are artists themselves, deserve the same degree of access to the arts. The NADC’s Arts and Accessibility Grants Program, supported by the California Arts Council, aims to achieve each of these, enhancing opportunities to engage with the arts by people with disabilities throughout California.

The Arts and Accessibility Grants Program provides small but critical grants to individual artists (up to $1,500) and arts organizations (up to $2,000). Arts organizations may request support for the hiring or involvement of artists with disabilities in arts events, or to increase the attendance and enhance the experience for audiences with disabilities. San Francisco International Hip Hop Dance, for instance, used grant funds to support a performance at their 19th Annual DanceFest by Jacob “Kujo Lyons,” a dancer and choreographer who is hearing impaired.

Our individual artist grants support activities that directly contribute to the professional growth and development of artists with disabilities. Artists may receive funding for supplies and materials, registration fees for exhibitions or workshops, studio time and coaching, editing services, and more. The program has helped artists with disabilities to increase their self-confidence, publish new literary works, exhibit new bodies of art, record music, learn new art-making techniques, network with other artists, and earn money through sales of their work.

Artist Stories

The following are excerpts from previously funded artists.

Ana Carrillo

Artists with disabilities have to overcome many obstacles in order to participate or create in their artistic endeavor. Depending on each individual’s particular set of circumstances, various needs of support are needed. … NADC grant funds have assisted me in these ways and also assisted in presenting my work in a professional manner with matting and framing and having quality prints. I would not have been able to accomplish these things without their support.

Ahmet Ustunel

I have never thought that blindness is an obstacle to getting involved with art or in creating something. On the contrary, I believe it helps me to be more creative. … NADC funded many of my projects during very critical moments of my career as an artist. The first NADC grant I received helped me to take wheel-throwing classes from accomplished master potters. Thanks to the time I spent with them, I found my new passion.

Carol Es

My work has evolved an enormous amount since the first [NADC Arts and Accessibility] grant I’ve received. I work in many different media — from painting and drawing, to video, and writing as well. …
In my work, I sometimes tackle subjects relating to my physical disabilities, and mental illness. These issues are incorporated into both my art making process itself, and, at times, when curating exhibitions (i.e., displaying paintings lower than eye level, taking people in wheelchairs into account). It also shows up in the work in a visceral way.

The National Arts and Disability Center began in 1994, when a group of artists with disabilities came to our parent organization, the Tarjan Center at UCLA, with a request for “training and resources that would support the visibility of their work and advance their career opportunities.” Today the NADC is a leading consultant in the arts and disability community and the only center of its kind to provide national resources for artists with disabilities and training on accessibility in the arts. We highlight the talent of our artists through our website, online gallery, Facebook page, and California Artist Directory.

The NADC has a longstanding partnership with the California Arts Council, providing consultation and training services to staff. The Arts and Accessibility Grants Program has been supported by the California Arts Council since 2001.

Apply Now

The National Arts and Disability Center is still reviewing applications for the Arts and Accessibility Grant program. Applications will be accepted until November 30 or until funds are gone. For more information and how to apply visit:

Katharine Hayward, PhD, MPH, is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the National Arts and Disability Center.