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UP Initiative: Approaching Intersectional Access

Charles G. Baldwin, Program Officer

two women in floppy, floral hats and sunglasses touching plants in the Garden within Reach
A Garden within Reach at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Photo: Troy B. Thompson Photography.


Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation (UP) Initiative stewards design thinking to activate and facilitate change in Massachusetts’ cultural sector. The UP Initiative is an essential component in our work to promote more diverse and inclusive participation in the sector by ensuring equity in policies, practices, and opportunities. We invite cultural organizations that want to increase public participation to apply to be a part of the UP Initiative by November 15, 2021.

If your organization seeks direction, apply for the Innovation and Learning Network:

The Innovation and Learning Network (ILN) is a series of professional development workshops on Universal Design and accessibility practices. It creates opportunities for new leadership models, peer networking, shared learning, and audience engagement strategies that build upon and go beyond ADA compliance. Participation in the ILN includes a series of peer learning opportunities, a user/expert consultation, a website audit, and a $5,000 stipend for staff time. Upon completion of the ILN, organizations receive UP Designation. Apply now for the ILN.

How does this learning play out within a cultural organization? Watch these two examples from the 2021 learning cohort:

Ellice Patterson, Artistic Director of Abilities Dance Boston and UP Award recipient 2020, delivers a keynote to the participants of the final session of the 2021 Innovation Learning Network (includes a snippet of her audio-description from Firebird).

Stewart Ikeda, Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, presents a comprehensive plan on developing a barrier-free institution that is thoughtful, intersectional, and responsive to the community.

If your organization is enacting access by design, apply for an UP Designation:

UP Designated organizations are a growing cohort of leaders and innovators in the field who serve to inspire other organizations. They have demonstrated a commitment to learn, take action, and embrace inclusion as a core organizational value and possess behaviors that reflect the aspirations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). UP designated organizations are eligible for UP grants. Apply now for UP Designation.

A key goal of the UP Initiative is to build understanding that an intersectional approach to access can be woven into departments and across systems and policies, and that everyone has a relevant stitch to contribute to the fabric of a cultural institution.

Learn More About the UP Initiative

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