Art Access’ 300 Plates Celebrates 20 Years
Interviews & Features
Art Access focuses its efforts on creating an inclusive community that makes art accessible to all. Through their Artist Working Groups, Partners Program, Workshops and Accessibility Training, the organization creates pathways for individuals who oftentimes find these resources out of reach due to disability, or being part of a marginalized community. Executive Director Gabriella Huggins says, “We want to be a space where artists gain tangible resources that will enable them to pursue fulfilling creative endeavors, connect with each other and create work that reflects their unique perspectives.” One of their long-running events through which they fulfill this mission is their annual fundraiser, 300 Plates, celebrating its 20th year this Spring.
Started in 2002, 300 Plates offers over a hundred local artists of all experience levels a 10” x 11” plate for their own artwork within their medium of choice. Not only does this provide artists—of all abilities and resources—an opportunity to express themselves publicly, but this seemingly small prompt spurs creative energy and inspiration by giving space to all kinds of artistic possibilities. “Typically more than 180 artists participate to make the event happen,” says Max Barnewitz, Art Access’ Program Manager.
Entering art communities without a springboard of resources or financial support can seem intimidating and daunting, making it challenging for amateur artists to find and expand their voice. Events like 300 Plates give previously underexposed artists a platform and the confidence to see their skills and perspectives as valuable. Watching your work gain monetary value amplifies this empowerment. “300 Plates started as a gallery event when Joe Ostraff, a former board member, had the idea to create an art exhibit that labeled each work from 1–300,” Barnewitz says. “Over the years, Art Access turned the event from a gallery of artworks into a fundraiser, shifting out of our former gallery space. Each work is priced starting at $100, then $101, then $102, etc.”
“We want to be a space where artists gain tangible resources that will enable them to pursue fulfilling creative endeavors, connect with each other and create work that reflects their unique perspectives.”
Attendees of the 300 Plates show often come back year after year to seek out, enjoy and purchase works from their favorite local artists. Many of them are alumni of Art Access’ Partners Program, a program that pairs a disabled or marginalized artist with a more established artist to mentor and help them gain the skills for success. Brian Kershisnik and Joe Adams are an example of the long-running partnerships developed through this program, having collaborated together on 300 Plates for many years. “Other artists who have generously made plates this year include Tyler Pierce, Cat Palmer, Stephanie Swift, Erin Berrett, Roberta Glidden, David Meikle, Justin Wheatley, Brian Bean and Paul Vincent Bernard,” says Barnewitz. “We’re so excited that Art Access’ Communications Manager, Cara Jean Hall, has a plate this year!”
After two years of running the 300 Plates fundraiser online, Art Access is finally able to host the event in person on Thursday, May 19. “This year, we’re able to expand in a great venue, 6SIX9! Attendees will have time to check out the plates, and the fun begins with wristband selection and drawing to see who gets to go choose plates first,” Barnewitz says. “Of course, there are also refreshments, music and fun ways to support Art Access.” This year will also feature an online component in which visitors who can’t come in person can purchase remaining plates online after 10 p.m. Art Access takes COVID-19 precautions into serious consideration, and the organization will enforce any guidelines from local and state authorities.
“We want to connect this fun party to the day-to-day, important work of increasing accessibility in our community.”
This annual fundraiser makes it possible for Art Access to continue operating and providing resources to expand and diversify our local art community. Without fundraisers such as 300 Plates, Art Access would not be able to produce programs such as the Partners Program or their newest addition, Artist Working Groups (A collaborative creative research group that brings artists with disabilities together to discuss the intersectionality of disability and other significant social topics). Equally crucial to Art Access’ mission are its education initiatives, such as Breaking Barriers, an accessibility professional development program that “aims to shift internal attitudes about disability that make programs and spaces inaccessible in the first place,” says Huggins.
This year’s 300 Plates places Art Access’ mission at the forefront of the event. “We want to connect this fun party to the day-to-day, important work of increasing accessibility in our community,” says Barnewitz. “Moving forward, we are digging deep to provide more creative opportunities for artists with disabilities in our state.” Tickets for 300 Plates will go on sale on April 21 and the exhibit will have a public preview May 18–19 at the 6SIX9 gallery from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Keep up with more information about 300 Plates through @artaccessutah on social media or through their website, artaccessutah.org.