About Latitude Artist Community

Latitude Artist Community serves all people - with an emphasis on those thought by some to have a disability - by creating meaningful, inclusive community interactions which allow participating artists to contribute culturally and politically to the life of their community.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Latitude's PEAL in Art Beat and Business Lexington

From Art Beat, November 18

Walk in their shoes.
Ever been pushing a stroller or riding your bike and suddenly THUNK. You’re either trapped in a pot hole or plopping off a 6-inch cliff and thinking, wow, somebody needs to fix that.
Well, somebody has been.

For the past five years Project Easy Access Lexington (PEAL), a group of advocates inspired by and made up of artists at Latitude, has been patching sidewalks and making our pedestrian thoroughfares more accessible. Several artists at Latitude get around in wheelchairs or on scooters, which means that safe, accessible sidewalks aren’t just a matter of comfort. They’re a dire necessity.

PEAL had visits from Mayor Teresa Isaac, Mayor Jim Newberry and newly-elected Mayor Jim Gray.

That missing ramp may not stop you dead in your tracks. That missing brick may not make you topple over. The lack of a crosswalk may not threaten your life. But the lack of accessibility is a huge problem for those who rely on more than their legs to get from point A to point B.

Being the artists that they are, the folks at Latitude used art as a tool to raise awareness and affect change. They turned replacing paving bricks into performance art pieces and made political portraits to get the attention of city planners. They met with mayors and vice mayors and council members and offered more than 800 impromptu “Inaccessibility Tours” to show what a walk around the block looks like from their perspective.

The stick-to-it-tiveness of Latitude and other members of the PEAL Bricksquad paid off when downtown Lexington renovated its sidewalks in preparation for the World Equestrian Games.

To celebrate, the City Council Office will host a documentary exhibition that shows how a little creative thinking, some crafty interactions, and a lot of determination on the part of a few citizens can change the landscape of an entire city.

The Bricksquad gets some professional new recruits.

The exhibition opens tomorrow during Gallery Hop, 5-8pm, and is on the 5th floor of the City Government Building (200 E. Main St.)… which just happens to be right on the way to Witness @ J. Allen Studio + Spa.

Good thing it’s easier to get around now, ’cause you’ve got lots of places to go and things to see tomorrow!

From Business Lexington, November 16
Thanks from Latitude for Changes in Attitude

Accessibility issues addressed at street level
by Bruce Burris

Lexington, KY - Lexington is way behind the national curve when it comes to accessible infrastructure and related supports. But it has always been the goal of Latitude Artist Community to advocate for changes in positive and creative ways.

Founded 5 years ago, Latitude's Project Easy Access Lexington or "PEAL" has taken over 800 people on our "Inaccessibility Tour." We take pride in our popular 3 block, 20 minute tour of downtown Lexington which shows people many of the problems associated with accessibility.

PEAL has surprised and educated many simply by being able to show them the problems from our "street level" perspective – and it really strikes a chord. Just as important –we love giving the tour, we make new friends and we know we are contributing to our city.

The only problem is that now that Lexington has begun to address some of these problems - gone are many of the crumbling curbs, blocked ramps and gaping holes in the sidewalk - in parts of Lexington it is getting harder to give the tour and frankly we kind of miss all the startled oohs and ahs by many of those 800 who finally 'got It.'

I guess we'll just have to accept it as the price of success.
Project Easy Access Lexington or PEAL was begun by Latitude artist Belinda Sellers after she was unable to open the door to our local Starbucks from her wheelchair. On her return to Latitude she asked what we might be able to do about it and after some thinking we began PEAL. Since then there have seen many positive accessibility improvements related to our advocacy though ironically the door to Starbucks remains as it was.

For PEAL, however, it has never been about singling out businesses, people or for that matter, government. Our aim has been at a broader and more positive solution based on education and grass roots advocacy and a belief in the fundamental decency of Lexington's citizens.

We have done this through creating a number of intimate community oriented initiatives such as our "Bricksquad" efforts during which we literally repair holes in downtown sidewalks ourselves; the before mentioned Inaccessibility Tours; by advocating for an appropriate lift for the City Building; and larger community-wide advocacy events such as three public rallies which attracted many advocates and much publicity.

While we must acknowledge that much remains to be done, we also need to recognize that our community has taken some very significant steps forward. Lexington's citizens have really begun to step up to the challenges that are associated with overhauling outdated infrastructure and thinking.

Most significant of all has been the creation of the Mayors Commission for Citizens with Disabilities. Proposed initially by Latitude's PEAL, the commission was guided through council by Lexington citizens' advocate Joan Beck and Robynn Pease of the office of Aging Services.
Commission member Marybeth Valance of UK's Human Development Institute states, "Members on the Commission include representation of interested City Council members, City Government representatives of Departments which impact public services and ADA, as well as University and agency representatives who serve populations of those with disabilities. This mix of consumers and public service and private sector agencies provides a strong base for enabling action steps, bringing in services to educate the members and giving members the empowerment and sanction needed to accomplish improvements for those with disabilities."

In particular, we need to recognize Lexington's last two Mayors, Jim Newberry and Teresa Isaac, former Councilmember Don Blevins and outgoing Councilmember Andrea James who have provided unprecedented leadership and encouragement during their tenures. Most of all, we need to recognize the leadership of the commission's current chair, Morry Latour. Under his tenure the Commission has taken on transportation, streetscape and so much more.
We are amazed at the changes starting to take place.
Thanks Lexington.