Calgary disability arts organization selected to participate in UN conference on climate change


Calgary’s National artsAccess Arts Centre (NaAC) may not have their new home yet, but the disability arts organization announced another big global victory Monday.

The organization – Canada’s largest and oldest disability arts organization – has been selected to represent Canada at the 2022 UN Global Climate Change Conference (#COP26), which actually takes place next month in Glasgow, Scotland.

There, an interdisciplinary group of visual artists, theatre artists, dancers and Indigenous elders will present a piece called Conference of the Birds, which they describe as ‘a response to an international community engagement process that reflects on the impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing climate change crisis.’

That event, scheduled for Nov.7-19, will just be the start to a flurry of international activity for the arts organization, said NaAC CEO and president J.S. Ryu, in an email to CTV News.

Other art works created by NaAC artists will be exhibited first in Seoul, South Korea (opening Nov.15), followed by a Tokyo exhibition that opens Dec.3 at the Canadian Embassy, followed by an exhibition and residency at Osaka, beginning Dec.13.

Additionally, a work from a NaAC artist is on display in Dubai as part of the Canadian Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo, which opened Oct. 1.

Ryu says the impact that being able to showcase work globally is immeasurable for the organization’s developmentally disabled artists.

“It’s extraordinary,” Ryu said. “So many times we see works from other major municipalities – Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal primarily – that seem to cut through and be showcased on the global stage.

“This is a huge opportunity for Calgary and Calgary-based artists to be showcased at what will be an event of global significance at COP26. Add to this the fact that the artists represented in this initiative through the NaAC all have developmental disabilities – this makes it that much more meaningful for Calgary and Canada.”

The growth in the profile of the NaAC has positioned it, and Calgary as a national, and even global leader of the disability arts movement.

“No other disability arts organization in our country comes even close to the kinds of opportunities that we’ve facilitated for our growing community of 350+ artists living with developmental and/or physical disabilities,” he said. “And throughout it all, we’ve been ‘walking the talk’ in treating our artists – as artists. In the past several months alone through this initiative and others, we’ve connected our artists to more than $50,000 in artist fees and commissioning opportunities.

“The NaAC,” he said, “is now widely seen as the place in Canada where artists with disabilities can be connected to world-class training and exhibition/presentation opportunities.”

The organization is moving to a new home in the old Scouts building on Memorial Drive. Ryu said construction is set to begin immediately on the site, with an expected occupancy of sometime in the winter of 2022.

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