Blog Post

Accessible Expressions Ohio: Providing Opportunities for Over 25 Years

expressively painted orange orchard with trees set against a blue sky

by OSU Writing Intern, Gwen Wojtkun

For over 25 years, Accessible Expressions Ohio has provided artists with disabilities the opportunity to create, exhibit and sell their art in a professional environment. This statewide, touring exhibition aims to raise awareness of all abilities by presenting art created by diverse individuals in inclusive settings. 

Impact

Accessible Expressions Ohio (AEO), a program hosted by Columbus-based nonprofit Art Possible Ohio, is one of the most diverse art exhibits on display. It showcases and tours over 60 2D and 3D art pieces by Ohio artists with disabilities. 

“Far too long, artists with disabilities have been underrepresented,” stated Megan Fitze, Executive Director, Art Possible Ohio. “Accessible Expressions Ohio is an essential exhibition that highlights and normalizes the presentation of art by artists with disabilities.”

Artists of any age, living in Ohio, with a disability may enter the Youth, Emerging, or Professional categories. A panel of practicing artists, educators, and art administrators assess submissions in these categories and evaluate them based on originality and diversity. This group also selects which artworks to reward. 

“As an artist with disabilities caused from Spinocerebellar Ataxia 5, a rare neurological disease that is progressive, affecting my ability to walk, talk, balance myself and use fine motor skills, my artwork has become a vehicle to interpret transformative changes occurring in my body caused from the progression of disease,” said Lisa Merida-Paytes, Professional Artist, AEO 2024, Hamilton County, Ohio. “My work researches and brings awareness to people living with disabilities while pushing the boundaries of contemporary art.”

 an image of a sculpted blue head with flowers and gears covering the sides with two individuals looking at it.

Caption: Accessible Expressions Ohio at Massillon Museum in 2023. Artwork: Transformation by Sarah Brown.

Past and Present

The exhibition began in 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, and has since expanded to all corners of the state, showcasing and celebrating thousands of Ohio artists across time.

In 2024, AEO will display its exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, marking a first for the museum. 

“This is the first time the museum has displayed an entire show of works by people with disabilities,” stated the Cincinnati Art Museum. “[It is] a significant step toward the museum’s inclusion and diversity goals.” 

As Fitze states, the impact of AEO goes beyond the artists. It influences galleries and their decision to consider more disability-inclusive practices, and the communities which those institutions serve. 

“Being a part of Accessible Expressions Ohio is very significant because it enables me to reach new audiences, exhibiting work and engaging our community members in how disease informs my work,” said Merida-Paytes. “AEO inspires our community who might not have been confronted with someone suffering, redefining and working through a disability and accessibility.” 

 timeline graphic that is a straight line with two lines coming out on each side on a white background with the Art Possible Ohio logo in the bottom left corner.

Sources: 

https://www.lisameridapaytes.com/artist-statement

https://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/exhibitions/upcoming-exhibitions/accessible-expressions-ohio/