For ArtPrize at Grand Rapids Art Museum, a selection of Thiele’s striking illustrations was transformed into dramatic, large-scale banners and panels that were installed on all four sides of the museum’s exterior. This outdoor presentation brought the personal and political presence of the disability community to the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Symbolically, the monumental scale of the project acted as an exaggerated, aesthetic counterbalance to the lack of disability presence in cities across the country.
My Dearest Friends Project seeks reaction and response. Disabled people are often spoken for, prompting the phrase “nothing about us, without us.” The growing collection of testimonies from disabled people for this project offer insight into the complex and varying experiences of physical and mental differences. The project aims to create a sense of solace and togetherness in the collective experiences of the disability community.
The exhibition featured a curated selection of +15 disabled stories collected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dearest Friends Project financially compensates each contributor for the right to display the submissions.
Head Project Artist Oaklee Thiele illustrated and hand-sewed each large-scale banner, with some works ranging as tall as 25 feet.
Grand Rapids Children's Museum, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Kendall College of Art and Design
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