“The medical model defines people with disabilities by what they can’t do,” says Jeanne Calvit, founder and artistic director of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. “Here,” she says, “they’re defined by what they create.”
Interact Center, founded in 1996, is for people ages 24 to 70 with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to clinical depression to blindness. It’s a place where they can put on original shows and experiment with visual arts.
The organization moved from Minneapolis to St. Paul in 2014, providing creative resources to around 100 artists with disabilities who otherwise lacked the budget, the confidence and the right studio lighting.
“There are so many artists who don’t know they’re creative until they come here,” says Calvit.
In addition to tools for painting, drawing, jewelry, mosaics and fiber arts, the center offers theater opportunities inspired by the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, where Calvit learned a collaborative, improv-based approach that empowers actors to write as they perform.
Satire has prevailed in the center’s 35 shows—whether it’s of the 2016 election cycle, the food industry or the brain; the latter was featured in their Ivy Award-winning 2008 play, Broken Brain Summit.
“The wide disability spectrum,” says Calvit, “contributes to a wide spectrum of themes as well.”