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Garage Museum Is the First Cultural Institution to Launch Extensive Programming for Disabled People in Russia

Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has launched a new initiative to make art more accessible for disabled audiences, Julia Halperin of the Art Newspaper reports. The museum is one of the first cultural institutions in the country to offer such extensive programming for disabled people. This a significant step in fighting institutionalized discrimination in Russia, a country that experts say has historically nursed a stigma against people with disabilities.

Garage’s new exhibition, “Co-Thinkers,” is the inaugural project in a series of annual curatorial initiatives to help make the museum more welcoming. To organize the show, the museum’s curators worked with four collaborators, each with a different disability, to select eighteen works by contemporary artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Turrell that question or alter perception. Intended as a sensory experience for all audiences, there will also be 3-D models of each object on display for visitors to touch.

Despite recent efforts to improve living conditions for those with disabilities––such as new laws, which went into effect in January, that ban discrimination against the disabled––Maria Sarycheva, the coordinator of Garage’s department of inclusive programs, said, “We have this legacy of the Soviet period, when people with disabilities were largely segregated.” Museums such as the Hermitage have disability services, but Sarycheva said that most institutions don’t offer full access to all of their galleries.

With “Co-Thinkers,” the Garage Museum is trying to expand the notion of inclusion in an art institution. “You do not need to come to reception and announce your disability—you just come and explore,” curator Anastasia Mityushina said.

The exhibition, which consists of works loaned from Moscow-based private collections, will be on view from July 7 to September 9, 2016.