(dis)ABLED BEAUTY Exhibit Opens at Central Michigan University
Former Kent State Museum exhibit, (dis)ABLED BEAUTY: The Evolution of Beauty, Disability, and Ability, is now on display at Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library. The exhibit is co-curated by Dr. Tameka Ellington, Kent State Fashion School faculty director for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and Dr. Stacey Lim, assistant professor of audiology at Central Michigan University. This is the first time this exhibit has been available to the public since ending its run at the Kent State Museum in March 2017.
“(dis)ABLED BEAUTY”, which opened Feb. 8 and runs through Aug. 2018, features more than 40 items including prosthetics, hearing and mobility devices, celebrates highly designed assistive devices, adaptive services, and apparel for those living with disabilities. The exhibit aims to encourage the manufacture of fashionable assistive devices in order reduce the stigma that wearers of these devices feel. In addition to raising awareness of this issue, the curators hope to break down some of the stereotypes that are associated with disabilities by connecting the concepts of disability and beauty in the public imagination.
The idea for this exhibit started with Lim and Ellington’s shared interest in fashion. The pair first met at Kent State University as two doctoral students waiting outside their statistics class, and quickly became fast friends through a shared interest in fashion. They soon began co-authoring a study on how wearing hearing aids and cochlear implants affects teenagers’ self-esteem, which propelled them to begin a collection of assistive devices of historical, current and visionary design.
In the past, assistive technologies were designed to be concealed and unnoticeable due to the stigma that was attached with disabilities, but in recent decades, fashionable and visible assistive technologies have been used to stand out and challenge the stigma. The designs in this collection were created to be seen and shown off.
Lim opened the CMU exhibit in collaboration with CMU’s College of Education and Human Services fashion design and merchandising students. The fashion students added designs to the surfaces of prosthetic legs on display in the exhibit that were donated by Springer Prosthetic and Orthotic Services for a juried competition sponsored by CMU’s Threads Fashion Show. Additionally, the exhibit includes stories of students, faculty, staff and alumni who have disabilities or have been involved in disability work. The stories were the results of interviews conducted by the students along with Lim and CMU history department faculty member Brittany Bayless Fremion and Adam Strong of Due South Productions.
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