…when I sat down with Rita at the beginning of the covid pandemic to be her art assistant during Zoom sessions, that this would lead to a book, a museum exhibit, several art/craft shows, and a new form of employment as an artist. Now we can add one more major achievement: Rita’s book, My Art, My World is part of the curriculum at the University of Toronto!
I found out about this development by contacting the course professor on Instagram (who could have imagined?) after she commented about the wonderful cookies that Rita and colleagues make and sell at the Common Ground Cooperative/Coffee Shed at the University of Toronto.
Associate Professor / Director Anne McGuire, of the Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity Department at the University of Toronto informed me that she was planning to include My Art, My World in the following courses:
CSE241: Introduction to Critical Disability Studies and
CSE448: Disability and the Child
Dr. McGuire said, “For the Intro course, students will consider My Art My World alongside works by other local and international disabled artists. For the child course, we look at several representations of disability in picture books….. In the courses I teach, disability is the focus, not as a deficit or medical condition, but as an important/valuable aspect of artist identity and, as such, as something that influences how artists see and move through the world.”
The book has recently been included in one of the courses using the illustration shown. Here are Dr. McGuire’s comments:
“…we shared with the students some examples of Rita’s work and talked about their impressions of these pieces. Many of the students were interested to learn more about her book and noticed how Rita’s artwork touches on themes of interdependency (in these examples, between human and non-human animals and various elements of nature).”
It is wonderful to see how art and this book are reaching so many people in such a beneficial manner. I very much agree with Dr. McGuire’s point of view regarding artists with disabilities. At the events I have attended with Rita, I have truly witnessed how people see the art as art and not as disabled art. They are curious and interested in viewing Rita’s creations and are proud to own them. It’s a positive way to start the conversation with the world at large—to talk about issues of employment, equity, and societal change, with art as the catalyst.