This letter to the Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press was published but only the first three paragraphs made it into print. Left out were key points that disability in an artist may not only add to the quality of the work but is often the muse that gives it life.
Editor, Winnipeg Free Press
I didn’t get around to reading Gwenda Nemerofsky’s review of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks concert in Saturday January 26th Winnipeg Free Press until Sunday afternoon and I am happy about that as I was able to relive the glory of the concert that I attended on Saturday evening.
Gwenda’s descriptive prose of the performance was beyond journalism and into art, especially that part of her review that witnessed the young master of the piano Nobuyuki Tsujii. I saw through her words his hands moving at such lightning speed that I was left breathless for a second time.
However, there is a point of clarification that I think needs to be made and that is in regard to the paragraph “He was led on to the stage by conductor Alexander Mickelthwate because he has been blind since he was born, but that was the extent that his disability affected his performance and ability to captivate an audience.”
I and a number of other of the supporters of the Arts and Disability Network Manitoba (ADMN) collaborated with Virtuosi Concerts and the WSO and were at the concert representing local artists with disabilities whose works were on display in the foyer. Like Nobu these artists have had to overcome some social and physical limiting factors in their lives to achieve goals; our purpose as a network is to support artists with disabilities through providing resources, education and opportunities.
It is our opinion artists such as Nobu and many others are not ‘affected’ by their disability but in most cases are ‘effected’ by the limitation they may have. We would suggest that to a large measure Nobu’s genius at the keyboard may have come from the fact that being blind he had to rely on his acute sense of sound rather than be distracted by sight, motion and lighting. Micklethwate in his pre-concert dialogue discussed the special relationship that he and the soloist had to develop because there was no visual communication.
The relative numbers of persons with disabilities in society is changing somewhat dramatically as medical science is allowing us to live longer and make greater on-going contributions to the economy and to the arts world. Artists such as Christine Sun Kim who is totally deaf but uses sound to create art and who will be in Winnipeg at the ADNM Fair in October, disability advocate Geoff McMurchy confined to a wheelchair expresses his artistic abilities through dance routines and at last year’s ADNM Winnipeg City Councillor Ross Eadie spoke eloquently about how he as a blind person could appreciate visual art.
Cultural and artistic expression is in a constant state of change as it should be and great art doesn’t need to transcend disability, it is embraced, informed and enriched by it.