Student Newsroom

Krannert Art Museum exhibit explores disability, accessibility in new exhibit

Bench at Crip art exhibit

Shannon Finnegan's piece displayed in the "Crip*" exhibit asks visitors to consider accessibility in museums. The exhibit features artists who explore disability in their work. Vivian La

A new University of Illinois art exhibit called “Crip*” centers around disability and addresses accessibility in museums.

On display at the Krannert Art Museum, “Crip*” refers to a theory of the same name that suggests society’s understanding of disability is dependent on what is defined as “normal,” disability scholar Robert McRuer said.

The exhibit’s curator, Liza Sylvestre, said all the art in the exhibit is made by artists with a disability or explores accessibility issues. She said there are braille and audio descriptions for each work.

Sylvestre aid “Crip*” was partly inspired by University of Illinois students and the large community of individuals with disabilities on campus.

“I hope that having this sort of an exhibition lays a foundation to have productive conversations around disability,” Sylvestre said.

One of the artworks displayed brings attention to the large medical costs of having a disability – a cost most can’t afford, artist Carly Mandel said.

The piece is called “XXL Medical ID,” a steel sculpture of a large metal ID tag hanging on the wall of the exhibit.

Another work is a blue wooden bench by artist Shannon Finnegan. On the bench, she has painted the words, “This exhibition has asked me to stand for too long. Sit if you agree.”

Finnegan said that most museum curators, artists and visitors overlook accessibility in museums. 

“Curators have a specific idea of what an exhibition should be, and seating isn’t a part of that,” Finnegan said. “And so I realized that one way to work around that was to make artwork that also functions as seating.”

The exhibit will be on display  at Krannert Art Museum until Dec. 11.

Charrice Jones is a student journalist with the Illinois Student Newsroom at Illinois Public Media.