Arts Council's Kathleen Collier working with her accessibility cohort at the LEAD Conference

LEAD Scholarship Grant Cohort Update

This fiscal year, the North Carolina Arts Council offered LEAD Scholarship grants to provide professional development for arts administrators who are new to the field of arts accessibility and who are proactively developing inclusive arts programs and experiences for artists and audiences with disabilities in their communities.

The funding covered the following:

  • Scholarships to attend the national Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disabilities (LEAD) Conference, which the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts held in Raleigh last August
  • Participation in a statewide arts accessibility learning cohort hosted by the North Carolina Arts Council in collaboration with Arts Access
  • A $2,500 Technical Assistance grant to be used for travel and per diem expenses at the LEAD Conference and to support staff time dedicated to the learning cohort
2022 LEAD Conference, N.C. Arts Council staff with local arts council participants
2022 LEAD Conference, N.C. Arts Council and Arts Access staff with arts organization participants
N.C. Arts Council and Arts Access staff with 2022 LEAD Conference Scholarship recipients

Since the conference, the learning cohort has met regularly to discuss strategies and share improvements they have made to ensure accessible arts experiences for all. Twenty-five nonprofit arts organizations participated in the cohort program. We’d like to spotlight four of those organizations here:

Emerge Gallery Art Center (DBA Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge)

Greenville; Holly M. Garriott, executive director

Emerge Gallery Art Center has designated a staff member to serve as its accessibility coordinator, completed a website accessibility audit, hired Arts Access to provide a countywide accessibility professional development webinar and facilitate an accessibility facilities audit in January of this year. They have also created a line item in their organizational budget to account for accessibility expenses.

The Joel Fund   

Raleigh; Isabella Brezenski, operation ART coordinator

The Joel Fund used part of its LEAD Scholarship grant to develop a hand-building pottery class for veterans who are visually impaired. The Blind Rehabilitation group at the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center had previously approached The Joel Fund for support, and this grant made the class possible. It will begin in March. The Joel Fund has also added a space on all program registration forms asking registrants to describe accommodations they will need in order to participate. The Fund plans to create accessible marketing materials for its annual N.C. Veteran Art exhibition.

Alleghany Arts Council (AAC)

Sparta; Diane Morrison, co-vice president and co-president-elect of the AAC board; programs chair

Alleghany County has a large Latino population, and with its grant funding the Alleghany Arts Council is providing marketing materials printed in Spanish for the first time. The council hired the Durham-based company Ablr to conduct a website accessibility audit. Feedback from the audit led the website manager to equip the site’s images and graphics with alt text to aid people who use screen readers.

North Carolina Folk and Heritage Festivals         

Greensboro; Ethan Lodics, business and technology manager

The North Carolina Folk and Heritage Festivals is collecting community feedback to produce an accessibility-focused version of its 2023 Festival Information Guide. This version will consider arrival, transportation, and parking; navigating the festival grounds; and engaging in the crafts marketplace, stages, and food and beverage areas. The organization is also piloting the creation of accessible marketing materials, both print and digital.

The North Carolina Arts Council plans to offer LEAD Scholarship grants again for the 2023 LEAD Conference, in Boston. We’ll post application information in the spring.


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