Artist-in-Residency Programs Accessible to Artists with Disabilities

New York Foundation for the Arts
Lisa Bufano - Chicago Reader

Artist-in-residency programs (also known as artist communities, retreats, and colonies) offer artists access to facilities and space for periods ranging from one week to a year or more. While artists with disabilities face unique challenges in their careers, artist-in-residency programs present an even greater challenge. Many national and international artist residency programs are in remote areas and in old buildings that do not meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The 1990 act requires buildings providing programs for the public to be accessible to those with disabilities. Buildings after 1990 have to be built with accessibility in their blueprints. Those built before that time must remove barriers to accessibility. There are exceptions, such as if removal of the barriers causes a severe financial burden or the removal would cause a fundamental alteration to the service (i.e., a hard of hearing person who needed light on stage for an interpreter during a planetarium presentation would be considered an untenable change in the planetarium’s programs). The first exception is what keeps a good number of nonprofit artist residency programs from becoming ADA compliant.

Since accessibility is not always publicly advertised on organizational websites or in publicity material, artists also incur another challenge and expense in contacting the organizations one-by-one. The Alliance of Artist Communities has a list on its website of member organizations that are accessible to the physically disabled, as well as to sight- and hearing-impaired artists. However, this is not a complete list of all residencies nationally and internationally, as not every residency program is part of the Alliance’s consortium. There are currently 41 listings of accessible programs in all disciplines, including such well-known residency programs as Yaddo and MacDowell, as well as some international opportunities, such as the American Academy in Berlin. For more information, please visit, where each accessible program listed has a link to a more detailed profile on specific accessibility descriptions.

There are a number of organizations that provide resources specifically for artists with disabilities, such as the National Arts and Disability Center ( and VSA arts ( The National Arts and Disability Center offers resource links with grant information, registries of California artists with disabilities, an online gallery, a library, job listings, and more. VSA arts also offers an online registry, publications and resources for artists with disabilities, and programs and events offered by VSA arts.

Many disabled artists want to take full advantage of the resources available to all artists. VSA arts reports that some of its local chapters are listing accessible programs in their states. Continued advocacy is needed to make information about the accessibility of all art programs available so that artists with disabilities can enter the art mainstream. If you know of programs or information useful to artists with disabilities that are not listed in NYFA Source (NYFA’s free online database of grants, services, and publications) NYFA Source, please email or

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2004 NYFA Quarterly publication as part of the Ask Artemisia series, by Melissa Potter, Program Officer of New York Foundation for the Arts.  It is reprented with permission.


Lisa Bufano - Chicago Reader (

Published by CAR_admin on Tue, 01/08/2008 - 12:22am
Updated on Fri, 07/11/2014 - 3:28pm