McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) and McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) recently opened the first ever MACA gallery exhibit that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An official reception for the show’s artists is scheduled this Thursday, March 9th from 5 to 7 pm. The reception is free and open to the public.
“This is a first step for us,” said Susan Pyatt-Baker, Executive Director at MACA, who recently attended a Kennedy Center LEAD Conference where she learned best practices for creating more accessible arts programming for disabled patrons. The Kennedy Center LEAD program, which stands for Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, is the nation’s premiere program for cultural arts administrators seeking to engage all members of a community in a celebration of arts and culture, regardless of handicap or disability.
“I knew that Jay would work hard to make things work right,” she said, referring to Jay Perry, MTCC Graphic Design Instructor. “We’ve looked at our calendar for the rest of this year and have started to plan for other gallery shows to be ADA compliant, especially our quilt show, shows from McDowell Tech, our K-12 schools, and folks like artist Kelly Solesby, who used to work here at MACA and is teaching a class at McDowell Tech this spring. But we had to work out the kinks with someone like Jay, and McDowell Tech’s new webmaster, Bill Teale. We’ll see what works and what doesn’t and refine things as we go along.”
This show will be the first of two shows this spring by MTCC art students. Graphics students will display work through the end of March, followed by a month-long Photography exhibit in MACA’s gallery space.
“The purpose of the show, of course, is to showcase the diverse talents of our students in the Advertising and Graphic Design curriculum,” said Perry. “Each year our show varies just a little, depending on the talents and diverse interests of our students. For this show, we will have several styles of artwork to share with the community, including screen-printed posters, acrylic paintings and digital art.”
According to Perry, a total of 10 students have artwork on display: Rhianna Bibb, Nina Cline, Maggie Hammond, Alvis Jackson, Steven Kendrick, Estela Mejia Mendoza, Jackson Mills, Charla Parks, Jake Robinson, and James Young. These students are a combination of traditional, online, and Career and College Promise high school students.
To make the show ADA compliant, each piece of art in the MACA gallery is accompanied by not only a written description, but also a QR code. Patrons who scan the QR code with their smartphone or other ADA-compliant device, will be directed to a specially designed page on McDowell Tech’s website where the patron can listen to audio recordings of all written image descriptions in both English and Spanish. The website is also accessible to home-bound residents who aren’t able to visit the gallery in person.
Bill Teale, the college’s webmaster, is well-versed in working with disabled populations. He is member of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hall of fame for his previous work pioneering online broadcasting for blind sport. Additionally, in 2002, he was nominated for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for his design of a website that needed no screen for viewing.
Jay also worked with the college’s new LatinX Director, Silvia Martin del Campo Vargas, to translate all written image descriptions into Spanish for Hispanic-speaking students from the region’s growing population of LatinX students, who hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and a host of other countries.
“We are delighted that Susan chose our staff to partner with MACA to bring arts accessibility to McDowell County and the surrounding region,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “Jay, Silvia and Bill are each stalwart MTCC employees who are committed to the college’s mission of making education accessible to everyone, which obviously includes handicapped and disabled students and patrons of the arts. We encourage our friends and neighbors to support this new venture and join us on Thursday to honor the students who created the artwork now on display.”
MACA is located at 50 South Main Street in Marion. For those unable to join MACA and McDowell Tech in person, the ADA-compliant website can be found online at https://artshow.web-mtcc.com/ .