VIDEO: Orange County Arts and Disability Festival spotlights students and adults’ artistic talents

Dozens of students and adults took center stage in front of their biggest supporters at the 47th annual Orange County Arts and Disability Festival at MainPlace Mall on April 29.

Orange County Arts and Disability logo

Continuing its longtime partnership with OCDE, Orange County Arts and Disability — formerly known as VSA Orange County — hosted the daylong event spotlighting the work of local artists with disabilities, showcasing writing, dance, music, theater and visual art. This year’s theme was “The Adventure Starts Here.”

“We are providing opportunities for our students and adults with disabilities to shine and show their talents,” Marleena Barber, director of Orange County Arts and Disability, said. “It’s such a special time for families and parents to see their children in this light and show how proud they are of them.”

The annual event began in 1977 and is held each spring to culminate year-round school and community-based art program efforts. The goal of the festival is to provide opportunities for artists with disabilities to showcase their work, and to provide education and awareness on disability.

Offstage, there were art activities, a mall-wide scavenger hunt, an art exhibit and a resource fair with 20 different community organizations that provide support services for families with students and adults with disabilities.

OCDE’s Media Services team supported the celebration and captured some of the highlights in the video above.

A space for artists

Student Bryan Ha and family at the OC Arts and Disability Festival

The art exhibit featured 450 pieces, including one from student Bryan Ha from Edison High School in the Huntington Beach Union High School District. His piece, titled “The Adventure Starts Here,” was selected as the themed artwork for this year’s festival. He used bright colors to draw giraffes who are trying to hide in a forest but are unable to because of their long necks.

“Bryan is a highly talented young artist who was diagnosed with autism,” said Barber. “He developed a strong passion for drawing at a young age. He loves creating elaborate animal-themed drawings using markers and construction paper.”

Festival organizers honored Bryant with his framed artwork during the ceremony in front of his family.

Gratitude for partnerships

The annual event welcomed a new collaboration this year with some Orange County Girl Scouts troops. They presented the colors during the opening ceremony and hosted a resource table with hands-on arts activities. They offered scouts an opportunity to earn a disability awareness fun patch, which educates members about inclusion and raises awareness, understanding and acceptance of people of all abilities.

The Orange County Arts and Disability Festival also recognized MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana with an award for being the home for the event for 35 years. Barber says she’s grateful for the mall and for the space it has allowed for students and adults with disabilities to express themselves through art.