Mural & exhibit featuring disabled artists and disability rights activists hung at the Oakland Airport

A mural depicting a group of people in a room.

Press Release

A mural depicting a group of people in a room.

Mural & exhibit featuring disabled artists and disability rights activists hung at the Oakland Airport

Honoring 50-years of local Center for Independent Living & disability rights advocate Judith Heumann

The Center for Independent Living is proud to announce our collaboration with the Port of Oakland on a series of paintings and exhibits at the Oakland International Airport (OAK). This series is intended to educate the public about the history of the disability rights and justice movement, which started locally in the Bay Area in the 1960s and 70s, and to offer inspiration for today’s efforts towards inclusion and civil rights for all.

 Passengers traveling through OAK have an opportunity to see the talent, beautiful artwork and photography of artists with disabilities and their allies. This includes a large mural, two exhibit booths, canvas banners and a painted canvas panel series in different locations throughout the airport.

 “We are so pleased to be able to offer a suite of four exhibits reflecting the great work being done by the Center for Independent Living in OAK’s terminals,” says Craig Simon, Acting Director of Aviation at the Port of Oakland. “Not only are the newly installed displays vibrant and interesting to experience, but they also create awareness of the strength of people with disabilities in our community. This is great work, and I encourage everyone to check out these exhibits the next time they Fly the East Bay Way.”

Project Description and Background

Over nine months, a team of talented, local visual artists of color with diverse disabilities were selected to create a series of murals in Berkeley and Oakland with two internationally renowned muralists. The first of these murals has been placed at OAK in the corridor connecting Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.  The piece, titled “Disability is Strength,” honors the visionaries of the past who helped build the movement for disability rights and independence, and present a vision for a future of full inclusion, rights and justice for people with disabilities. The mural features disability rights pioneers Ed Roberts, Judith Heumann and Brad Lomax. The artists – Charles Blackwell, Vanessa Castro, Tiffany Hong – worked with muralists Pablo “Raiz” Arroyo and Pancho Pescador for months leading up to the final product.

Judy Heumann, one of the great and recently deceased disability rights early advocates once said, “Independent Living isn’t doing everything by yourself – it’s being in control of how things are done.” Pablo and Pancho reflect on this in their experience of supporting the creation of this mural, “The mural we created was a process of listening to the CIL community. The significance of the final piece is to show that with the support of the community disabled artists can also achieve amazing feats, when we take the time to listen.”

Then, featured in the Southwest Baggage Claim is a banner featuring artwork by Charles Blackwell, a blind artist from Oakland, CA. After an accident that damaged his eyesight, Charles continued his lifelong passion of making art by using an entirely new style and way of working to compensate for his limited vision. He creates his artwork using primarily ink and canvas, leaning in closely to see through his peripherals, and using rich, vibrant colors.

Charles says the purpose of his artwork is, “To inspire and give inspiration to a world that is so beat down. The world is turned to a place where the disabled can encourage the abled to live fully and not limit themselves, to maintain their will to live and not give up.”

Also in the Southwest Baggage Claim is a mural conceived and created by Berkeley artist Ed Monroe and disabled artist Neil Marcus that was informed by documentary photographer HolLynn D’Lil’s book, Becoming Real in 24 Days. The mural depicts disabled people in the interior scenes organizing sit-ins and confrontations for equality, emerging into the outside world on either side, becoming full participants and achieving recognition in contemporary society.

Lastly, two photo display cases, located in the Bayview corridor of Southwest Terminal 2 and titled “Building An Accessible World” and “Equal Dignity without Discrimination,” showcase photos by photographer and lifelong disability rights activist Ken Stein. They capture moments from the Disability Rights Movement in the 70s and 80s that led up to the eventual passage of the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), as well as everyday scenes of a world in revolutionary transition; a world embracing equal dignity without discrimination. Ken Stein’s photography has also been mounted on a banner in the Southwest Baggage Claim for further visibility.

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