5 Bay Area Artists Receive the First Major Grant for Disabled Creatives

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Choreographer Alice Sheppard, activist and media maker Alice Wong and filmmaker Jim LeBrecht are three of the recipients of the Disability Futures fellowship, which awarded them $50,000 to support their creative practice.  (Courtesy of the artists)

20 interdisciplinary artists from across the country just got a $50,000 boost in funding for their practices, and five of the recipients hail from the Bay Area.

The Disability Futures fellowship is the first national, multidisciplinary award for disabled creative practitioners. Administered by United States Artists and funded by the Ford Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the grant seeks to elevate these artists’ work and public profile. Among the winners is San Francisco activist and author Alice Wong. Wong founded the Disability Visibility Project, which amplifies the work of disabled artists and activists; she also hosts the Disability Visibility podcast and has published multiple books, including Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century.

Berkeley filmmaker Jim LeBrecht is another winner. LeBrecht co-directed and co-produced the Sundance-winning documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, about a summer camp that spurred a movement. He brings with him 40 years of experience and numerous credits in directing, sound mixing and screenwriting, and is a board member of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

Other Disability Futures Fellows include Oakland writer and educator Mia Mingus, whose blog Leaving Evidence is an important educational resource. Berkeley’s Patty Berne was awarded for her work with Sins Invalid, the performing arts organization she co-founded to center disabled artists who are of color and/or LGBTQ+. And finally, Los Altos choreographer Alice Sheppard won the prize for her work with Kinetic Light, a performing arts group that incorporates dance and technology to advance conversations about disability justice.