The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative (ACAC) hosted its first-ever IDEA Awards on Jan. 27. The awards recognize institutions and individuals who made outstanding contributions to the inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility of the Greater St. Louis cultural landscape in 2020. ACAC is a program of the visual-disability focused nonprofit MindsEye, whose President and CEO Jason Frazier conceived of the awards.

“For the last few years, we’ve heard amazing stories about the core principles of this award being brought to forefront in arts and culture spaces,” said Frazier. “I realized many awards are handed out in this arena, but nothing recognizing the efforts to make arts and culture obtainable for everyone.”

The Arts and Education Council is honored to be among the award recipients. The other three IDEA Award winners for 2020 are Dance the Vote, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and Jenna McNeal, the Lead Visitor Engagement Supervisor at the Missouri History Museum. On Jan. 27, Awardees will be recognized and presented with a bespoke award that features the text “ACAC IDEA Awards 2020” in braille. The awards were designed and created by Custom MADE, a St. Louis maker space.

Founded by theatre artist and social activist Joan Lipkin and co-produced by Ashley L. Tate, Dance The Vote is a nonpartisan organization that promotes voter advocacy and registration through performance, video, graphics and other arts related channels and civic engagement. In 2020 they featured choreographers of color and companies that focus on dancers with disabilities including Full Radius and Heidi Lasky Dance. The videos were packaged into weekly episodes and viewed over 50,000 times in the fall of 2020.

The Arts and Education Council believes the arts are critical to shaping a more vibrant region for all. Since 1963, we have kept art happening across the bi-state region through a variety of programs and grants with the goal of ensuring our region is rich with arts and cultural experiences. To support a full creative life for all, the Arts and Education Council commits to championing policies and practices of cultural equity that empower a just, inclusive, equitable, and accessible region.

“We are grateful that the Arts and Education Council has had the opportunity to partner with MindsEye on numerous programs including as an early supporter of the audio description program,” said Cynthia A. Prost, Arts and Education Council president and CEO. “MindsEye’s commitment to arts accessibility makes our community a better place and we’re honored to receive this recognition from them.”

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, a recipient of operating support from the Arts and Education Council, is committed to fostering community and joy across the St. Louis region in the Shakespearean tradition of art for all. In 2020, despite restrictions on gathering for a regular season, the Festival partnered with MindsEye to produce audio descriptions for three new productions: Cymbeline presented virtually, "A Late Summer Night's Stroll" in Forest Park and "A Walking Xmas Carol" in the Central West End.

Jenna McNeal has been advancing accessibility at the Missouri History Museum for years as the Lead Visitor Engagement Supervisor. She proposed the museum’s recently completed Nursery and Sensory Friendly Room and continues to monitor its use and success. She also develops and executes accessibility training for museum staff and volunteers and initiated the maintenance program for the museum’s complimentary wheelchairs. Jenna enjoys personally welcoming groups of adults with developmental disabilities who visit the museum with their care facilities.

The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative brings together cultural practitioners, people with disabilities, and disability advocates to share knowledge and experiences through bi-monthly forums that include panels and discussions. The goal is to empower local institutions to become more accessible to people with disabilities as visitors, patrons, artists, employees, and volunteers. Over 50 organizations have participated in forums to date. Learn more about the ACAC here.