Raleigh to Host Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference in 2020

Will be the 20th Anniversary of the LEAD® Conference and the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

News posted Aug. 28, 2019 - 6:00 am
Wheelchair accessible art gallery

The 2020 Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference will be held in Raleigh, at the Raleigh Convention Center on Aug. 5-7, 2020. This national conference brings more than 600 professionals together to explore practical and innovative ways to design and realize inclusive arts and cultural experiences to engage the communities of people with disabilities. Additionally, the conference is projected to generate nearly $500,000 in direct visitor spending, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh).

2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the 20th anniversary of the LEAD® Conference. “Raleigh has been involved with LEAD® since its inception. Raleigh Little Theatre and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts were part of the small group of organizations that initially came up with the LEAD® concept in 2000, with the goal of creating accessible cultural arts programs that are inclusive of people with disabilities and older adults,” said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane. “We are thrilled that Raleigh has been part of this important work for 20 years, and that on this important anniversary we have an opportunity to host the LEAD® Conference.”

A program of the Office of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the LEAD® network was created in response and continues to focus on these key objectives:

  • Explore practical methods for implementing accessibility in cultural environments
  • Communicate information about arts and accessibility
  • Share resources and knowledge among professionals in the field of accessibility

“We are so pleased to have the city of Raleigh host the 2020 LEAD® Conference,” stated Betty Siegel, Director of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center. “Since LEAD first convened in 2000, the Raleigh cultural community has been engaged. The arts community of Raleigh has been an important part of the growth of LEAD® and in advocating and improving access to all. We passionately believe that access to the arts is a civil and human right. The opportunity to gather once a year to tap into the collective ‘brain trust’ of cultural leaders throughout venues nationally and internationally is invaluable for all participants. We are looking forward to next year and all that we will learn.”

Since 2015, the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County have partnered on The Arts Learning Community for Universal Access. The Learning Community consists of staff from arts and cultural organizations that collaborate to advocate for and improve access to the arts for Deaf and disability community members. Each year since, scholarships have been provided members of the learning community to attend the LEAD® Conference, so they gain access to innovative ideas and best practices to further their inclusion work.

During the 2017 LEAD® Conference in Austin Brandon Cordrey, Executive Director of VAE Raleigh, and Jamie Katz Court, Communications and Programs Manager of PineCone - Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, both received the Emerging Leader LEAD® Award for their work and leadership in furthering the accessibility field. They received the award for their work in implementing Raleigh Arts Plan’s Creative Life Vision.

About the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Network:

Every year the Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) network and annual conference brings experienced and new professionals together to explore practical methods for implementing accessibility in cultural environments. At LEAD® we share resources and knowledge, develop best practices, and experience accessibility in action.

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