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Creative Citizen Studios

Posted September 28, 2018

Film Pittsburgh talks with Tirzah DeCaria of Creative Citizen Studios, a local organization that seeks to build bridges between the arts and disabilities communities.

Work by Creative Citizen Studios artists will be featured at the upcoming ReelAbilities Art Exhibit (October 3-9, 2018).

Film Pittsburgh: What inspired you to branch off from your work in real estate to create art accessible classes?

Tirzah: Arts and disability work is my first love. I've been working in this field for over 10 years and am committed to highlighting the talents and abilities of this unique population. I also enjoy working as a real estate agent; this work sustains me financially. I'm thankful for all the people who I connect with in the process of buying and selling houses as well as the talented artists of CCS who inspire me to be my best self.

FP: What surprises you most about your students?

T: The surprises in the art classroom are one of my favorite things about our group of citizen artists. You don't always know what our artists are thinking until ideas get worked out on paper. This is especially true for artists that don't have easy access to verbal language—it's refreshing to use the visual media to communicate in a direct way. For every project that I think will have a predictable path, I'm always reminded to keep my expectations open and let the students teach me more about their unique perspective.

FP: What is a common misconception you encounter when talking about your work? What is something you wish you could change in the national discourse about disabilities?

T: A lot of times people hear about the work of Creative Citizen Studios and immediately get nervous that they will say something offensive or use the wrong language. Instead of this conversational dead-end reaction, I wish that the disability community was seen as a more natural extension of the diversity spectrum. For me, this work does not come from a drive to help people who need support but rather from a place of creative respect and a desire to share unique voices with a community of artists and art patrons!

FP: What are some ways organizations can work to incorporate your "not about us without us" philosophy?

T: I'm a big fan of the humility of asking people what they need. It's amazing what happens when you stop making assumptions and start listening.

FP: Creative Citizen Studios published a great blog post about how you define art. In what way do you see art changing as a field in the future?

T: I think art is constantly changing—we are only limited by our lack of imagination when defining the future of art.

Tirzah DeCaria is a founder of Creative Citizen Studios (CCS), a Pittsburgh based non-profit organization dedicated to artists with disabilities. CCS seeks to support professional growth for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Pittsburgh through opportunities to create, exhibit and sell work. Creative Citizens also works with cultural institutions in accessibility education programs in order to build strong bridges between the arts and disability communities. Tirzah studied social enterprise businesses at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School of public policy and graduated in 2010. Since 2012, Creative Citizen Studios has taught hundreds of museum professionals an empathetic approach to accessibility and has supported the career of 20+ talented artists with disabilities in weekly classes.