Latitude Artist Community in Lexington, Ky., creates some of the most innovative, elegant and daring social and creative supports of any program of its kind in the country. Founded in 2001 by Lexington residents Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader-Webster, Latitude serves all people, with an emphasis on artists considered to have disabilities by laying the groundwork for inclusive community interactions which allow participating artists to contribute culturally politically, and significantly to the life of their city. In November of 2012 Latitude changed hands and is now managed by Rebecca Pendleton, Medicaid Division Director, and Mollie Rabiner, Community Division Director.
From its conception to its continued dedication to groundbreaking work, every part of Latitude was and is conceived with a purpose to serve the community. Even the agency’s location – it was designed to operate in downtown Lexington – allows it to be easily accessible and a vital part of day-to-day cultural/social opportunities in the city.
One of Latitude’s most significant advocacy accomplishments was the creation 7 years ago of Project Easy Access Lexington, an advocacy organization which focuses its efforts on accessibility education forums, rallies and related events including the annual “Citizen Advocate of the Year Award”. Most significantly (PEAL) initiated the formation of Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities.
While Latitude supports artists and our community through a variety of ventures, it remains best known for supporting and promoting the work of its participating artists who have exhibited art work in well over 100 exhibitions in the past 12 years- from Lexington and New York to London and Berlin and most recently this past summer, in Russia.
Latitude has collaborated with thousands of individuals and numerous organizations during its 12-year history. Participating Latitude artists are regarded and recognized as contributing citizen’s first and foremost – without emphasis being placed on the artist as a person with a disability. The support Latitude provides to its artists has created a progressive and innovative mission – one which values education and the necessity of intellectual risk-taking.
As an agency, Latitude strives to create new and unique initiatives to strengthen Lexington’s arts community. Its new program, I.D.eaWorks, provides financial backing to local artists, particularly those who are involved with avant-garde, challenging, or non-traditional media and ideas, in the development and commission of a new piece of work. Uniquely, Latitude places much emphasis on performance art and ritual(s) which challenge both creator and audience alike.
In spring 2012, Latitude introduced and sponsored an important conference, “Undressing Normal, An Un Conference on Sexuality for those of us DisLabled,” which addressed issues related to sexuality and gender within the disabled community. The event was the first of its kind Kentucky, and exemplifies the reason that Latitude exists.
Latitude serves all people, with an emphasis on those who are considered to have a disability, by creating a framework which encourages us to recognize our own life’s narrative, and to then choose ways in which we may contribute to the well-being of our community.
We believe in Community. We believe in collaborative community partnerships. We believe that space/location is the key that opens the door to community. We believe in a shared commitment to a revitalized downtown Lexington. We believe that the community itself needs a broader perspective regarding disability issues. We believe in the potential of all people. We believe that people thought to have disabilities have unrecognized potential. We believe that Human Services can do more to support people to realize their potential. We believe that community supports for people considered to have disabilities can be improved, upgraded, and developed. We believe that caregivers can be valued, appreciated, properly trained and paid. We believe that people thought to have disabilities are not less fortunate, but are people who, with appropriate supports, will contribute to the greater good of the community.
- Recipient of the 2012 Kentucky Arts Council Governor’s Awards in the Arts
- Recipient of Mayor Jim Newberry’s proclamation of June 26, 2010 as Latitude Artist Community Day.
- Recipient of Mayor Teresa Isaac’s proclamation of September 28, 2006 as Accessibility Awareness Day
- Creation of Project Easy Access Lexington, an advocacy organization which focuses its efforts on accessibility education forums, rallies and related events including the annual “Citizen Advocate of the Year Award”. Most significantly (PEAL) initiated the formation of Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities.