by Barbara H. Dyer Project Director
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The IDEA Inclusion Project has been fortunate to have collaboration with more than one entity. The Knoxville American Festival Project Community partner playing a major part in the culmination of the project was KnoxvilleÕs Circle Modern Dance that was represented by Mark Lamb, its executive artistic director. The other component that has been integral to the success of the project is Wayne Dyer, artist, graphic designer and professor at East Tennessee State University who is working with the project as a stakeholder and as an individual. Circle Modern Dance is a non-profit organization governed by a board of directors. They have been in existence for eleven years, have 8 core members, with 50 dancers and are open to the community. Their funding is through grants on a per-project basis, general private donors, and corporate sponsorships. Their basic staff consists of an executive artist director and an artistic director. The mission of the organization is that collaboration with other arts and social organizations "makes the circle go round." "The circle doesnÕt stop on stage but extends into the audience." They also believe "everyone is a dancer." Wayne Dyer is a volunteer educational parent advocate for families of children with special needs. He has a special interest in the project since he is the father of our teenage daughter with Down syndrome who has always had an inclusive educational experience. We also have two other children who are dyslexic. Additionally, Wayne happens to be a visual artist whose work is largely based in political and social statement making. Input from the community has taken many forms. First, it has evolved from the many experiences some of us have had in having children with disabilities and knowing their educational issues. Another venue has been through supporting and advocating for persons with disabilities and their families. Perspectives have also come through MarkÕs public school teaching of children to dance with and without disabilities. Our hope was to retrieve the voices and messages of individuals with disabilities and their families and then to give those messages a voice through a creative performance based forum. We brought children and their families together and through dance and movement and have extracted their issues and concerns about education and disability. We reflected these through sound-scapes, visual arts, and the childrenÕs own gestures and movements through dance. Our primary goal was to celebrate the inclusive path for individuals with disabilities as a basic educational experience. We agreed to produce a creative performance and multi-media visual arts experience to educate and celebrate diversity and inclusion especially in regard to persons with disabilities. We presented around the federal statute, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to inform the general public about the rights of children with disabilities to receive a "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE). We also fulfilled the goal to provide a forum for the educational experiences of persons with disabilities to be seen and heard.