70% of people with disabilities are unemployed in the United States. Access Gallery, and inclusive art gallery in Denver, is working to cut down that percentage by partnering with artists who otherwise might not have the opportunity to pursue their craft. Their goal is to figure out ways to make life a little bit better for their artists and give them not only the space and time to create, but the ability to really develop their artistic voice.
Central to Access Gallery’s mission is the belief that most young artists aren’t limited by their disabilities, but their lack of financial resources. So, this innovative gallery built their organization around the idea of increasing economic opportunity for their artists. A major component of this approach is hosting shows that generate income for the artists.
The next frontier for Access Gallery is creating more revenue opportunities for their artists in the form of classes and contract work. Artists actively search for paid clients that may want a logo, brochure, packaging or campaign. The pandemic accelerated the realization of these ventures by expanding virtual work opportunities.
During the pandemic, we’ve all learned that many of us can work from home given the right tools. Developmental Pathways partnered with Access Gallery to provide artists with the technology they needed to work from home.
Artists were given a range of resources to use at home, such as laptops, Adobe Creative Suite, or tablets. These tools enabled the artists to create amazing work on their own; they even created the concept for the DD Awareness campaign through digital collaboration.
Access Gallery has evolved significantly since its inception in 1978. First called Pikes Peak Association for Arts for the Handicapped, they moved to Denver in their second year and got a 501©3 status as Very Special Arts (VSA) Colorado. After many years, they changed their name to Access Gallery and moved to their current location in 2004.
VSA, now Access Gallery, was started by Jean Kennedy Smith whose family has always supported causes for people with disabilities. Along the way Access Gallery’s program became affiliated with the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and still actively works with the center. In the past 40+ years, the gallery’s programs have changed significantly to best fit the needs of the community.
Executive Director, Damon McLeese, has been running Access Gallery since 1997. He works to put all the pieces together so that artists get what they need.Amy Siegel, marketing and sales specialist, brings her long background in graphic design to the team. She worked for what is now the largest architectural firm in the world, Gensler, and became aware of Access Gallery in 2005 through Giving Voice. Now she helps in teaching and mentoring artists.
Visit Access Gallery at 909 Santa Fe Drive in Denver and check out their newly designed Digital Design Studio and Art Studio, designed by Gensler as a pro bono project. To learn more visit accessgallery.org.