Breaking Ground 95 - Introduction

Wanda Willis, Executive Director, TN Council on Developmental Disabilities

One of my favorite times every year is the production of our annual Breaking Ground Arts Issue. We continue to be moved and entertained by the breadth and quality of art submitted to us – the gorgeous paintings, lovely photographs, and poignant and inspiring poetry and prose that grace these pages, and tell the story through words and images of the disability experience.

In this bountiful issue, we hope you will take the time to read the articles about a writer with autism who has published a novel; the Healing Arts Project, which encourages people with mental health issues to express themselves through art, and provides opportunities for these artists to showcase their work; and the Chattanooga Area Brain Injury Association’s Unmasking TBI initiative, that combines biographical storytelling with multi-media.

We are also thankful for the efforts of our co-sponsors, the Tennessee Arts Commission and Borderless Arts Tennessee. We admire their ingenuity in developing unique arts programming for individuals with disabilities that allows these sometimes unheralded artists to shine in their communities. This year we helped fund a series of Borderless Arts Tennessee workshops for artists with disabilities, to help them “professionalize” the work they do. Regular readers of this magazine will know how much we value and seek to promote the meaningful employment of Tennesseans with disabilities, and exploring ways to assist them in developing full-fledged careers in the arts is part of that mission.

Kim Johnson, Director of Arts Access for the Tennessee Arts Commission

The Tennessee Arts Commission is once again honored to be co-sponsoring the Council’s annual Breaking Ground Arts Issue. We have had a busy year as arts programming has expanded into new populations including older adults and individuals serving in the military, veterans, and their families, many of whom are living with disabilities.

Older adults are one of the most rapidly growing demographics in Tennessee. Many of these Tennesseans experience a range of cognitive and physical disabilities, which will result in a significant demand for services and programs over the coming years.

This past year, the Tennessee Arts Commission partnered with the Tennessee Department of Veteran Services in an initiative to provide arts programs that serve military members, veterans and their families. The arts are one way to help members of our military community express themselves and share their stories. Through a new grants category, Tennessee Military, Veterans & the Arts, funding was awarded to nine organizations who serve these populations through arts programming and activities across the state. In both of these demographics, the arts are a proven way to improve quality of life, increase positive outcomes and support people regardless of their ability to remain active, healthy and engaged for a lifetime. For more information on these initiatives, visit our website at

Lori Kissinger, Executive Director of Borderless Arts Tennessee

Borderless Arts Tennessee is a statewide organization committed to inclusive and accessible arts programs for people with disabilities to enhance educational curriculum, enrich creative expression, empower career development and encourage community engagement. We were honored this past year to represent the United States in a disability forum in Egypt with 31 other countries as our artists with disabilities are now sharing their talents throughout the world.

Borderless Arts is always excited to partner with the Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Tennessee Arts Commission as we share with you the artistic talents of individuals with disabilities in Tennessee, and also the stories of how the arts have impacted their lives. We are very grateful to both entities for supporting our work over the years, through funding and a core belief of the beauty and personal empowerment in the creation of the arts. For more information about Borderless Arts, please visit