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Disability exhibit coming to GRAM

Posted at 4:41 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 16:41:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Sept. 16, 2021 ArtPrize 2021: My Dearest Friends Project will open featuring black-and-white illustrations and statements about the experience of those with disabilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oaklee Thiele alongside the Grand Rapids Art Musuem (GRAM) and DisArt released the announcement on Sept. 16, 2021.

“For the past few years, GRAM and DisArt have sought to find an exhibition project to collaborate on. We are so pleased and proud to be presenting My Dearest Friends Project during ArtPrize 2021,” stated GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt. “We were immediately won over by Oaklee’s premise and visual innovation, and we’re confident that the piece’s daring and stunning presentation on all four sides of the Museum’s exterior will strike a deep chord with the public.”

My Dearest Friends was launched Thiele and DisArt in 2020 via open call on Instagram and received more than 400 submissions from the U.S. and beyond.

“I am so honored to exhibit at an institution like the Grand Rapids Art Museum. GRAM’s large-scale windows allow for the images to be produced at a massive scale which in turn will make the disabled presence unavoidable in the heart of Grand Rapids,” added Artist Oaklee Thiele. “This September, disability culture will take center stage. The My Dearest Friends Project celebrates disabled life during a time in which the disability community has experienced significant loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."

A selection of the illustrations will be transformed in 25’ handsewn banners and vinyl sheets on GRAM’s windows which be installed on all for sides of the building for ArtPrize.

DisArt Co-Director Christopher Smit commented, "We are so thrilled to be able to present this work with our partners at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Over the past several months we have been able to create a very close community of collaborators, one that prioritizes the power of art and the promise of community."

DisArt Co-Director Jill Vyn added, "All of us at the My Dearest Friends Project are grateful to the staff of the Grand Rapids Art Museum for working tirelessly with us to make sure that this exhibition is accessible, impactful, and memorable. This exhibition is progress toward creating an accessible, inclusive city."

Those interested in viewing the project can do so until Oct. 31, 2021 and can vote for it on the ArtPrize app. People can learn more about how to submit an entry to the My Dearest Friends online.