The Art of Brain Injury

by Cheryl Green

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An online search of disability art reveals countless examples of advocacy through the arts. People with disabilities are the focus of their own online shows and entire film festivals. You find articles criticizing presentations of characters with disabilities as either pure evil (Captain Hook with his peg leg) or pure goodness (Tiny Tim with his crutches). You see artists argue over whether nondisabled actors should play characters with disabilities on TV. Conversations are rich, providing a place for people with disabilities to discuss for themselves rather than be the subjects of discussion. Many disabled folks use arts to challenge stereotypes, share personal narratives, and work to be considered valued citizens. Replace disability with brain injury, and you are overwhelmed with medical articles on neurotransmitters.

Why is brain injury hard to find in disability arts communities? How can individuals with brain injuries be brought into Disability Culture to take part in, and contribute to, the activist work being done and ongoing conversations about social stigma, rights, care, and building a full life? Where are the brain-injured artists? I know they are out there; many turn to art when demanding environments of the workaday world overwhelm the injured brain. I began writing and co-starring in comedy shorts when my doctor would not release me back to work after my brain injury. The films spark dialogue with individuals with brain injuries, family, and clinicians at a depth I was never able to get to just talking to people.

There are a couple beautiful films others have made that feature personal narratives by individuals with brain injuries. They take a close, poignant look at struggles, triumphs, and identity. My newest film will be a series of personal narratives by brain-injured artists living in the Pacific Northwest. It centers on art not just as therapy or recreation but as a delightful tool for social change, personal growth, and meaningful work. The Art of Brain Injury is an attempt to bring the disability community and the brain injury community together through storytelling to show how the groups share many of the same themes, interests, and social goals.

My proposed project is background research as well as filming interviews, arts exhibitions, and artists at work in their creative spaces for the documentary film. Once this phase is underway, I will apply for grants to support producing, editing, captioning, and distributing the film.

Your generous contribution will help me to bring a few more people out of the isolation so painful and yet so common after brain injury. You can help me discover and share tremendous artistic talent that often gets hidden behind drawn shades. This film will broaden the conversation of disability art for social change.

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