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Scary Spice, by North Vancouver's Julie Milano

Local art and culture group 'kickstARTS' disability art movement 

By Paul Gowan

Linking art with advocacy, Geoff McMurchy, executive director of the Vancouver-based Society for Disability Arts and Culture (S4DAC), proves that artistic spirit defies disability.

S4DAC is known best for kickstART, a four-day visual arts, dance, comedy and theatre fest embracing local and international talent from a broad range of disabilities. This year, kickstART runs Sept. 16-19 at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver. The first kickstART festival occurred in 2001.

McMurchy was a budding artist when, in 1977 at the age of 21, he broke his neck in a diving accident. He became swept up in the disability advocacy movement and co-founded S4DAC in 1998. At S4DAC, he marries arts and advocacy.

S4DAC is involved with workshops, dance presentations, visual art and theatre training, exhibits, and the production of Artsmarts, a resource book for artists with disabilities. Artsmarts gathers useful information from other artists with disabilities about their experiences accessing resources. The information can help any artist.

Borg Again, an exhibit of cyborg culture, showed recently at the Pendulum Gallery on West Georgia Street, featuring the work of seven disabled artists. The event was sponsored by S4DAC. McMurchy says it was an interesting take on cyborg culture, in which discourse, until now, people with disabilities haven't really been involved.

"I thought it would be interesting to get some commentary from artists with disabilities, because, while they haven't been a part of the discussion, people with disabilities are ideally suited to be part of that, as part of the front lines in all the implants and body supplementation that is going on in the medical field."

McMurchy says Canada is "way behind" other nations in promoting disability arts and culture. 

"That was part of the impetus of us forming as an organization," he says. "In fact, that how kickstART, the name, was coined, because we were trying to 'kick-start' the movement in Canada."

For more information on kickstART or S4DAC, please visit or call 604-685-3368.

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