In 2022/23, the Steering Committee of the Museum, Arts, & Culture Access Consortium (MAC) set out to create the organization’s first strategic plan focused on clarifying mission and goals, developing consistent programming offerings, deepening MAC’s understanding of and commitment to anti-racist, anti-ableist, and anti-oppressive organizational practices, developing an organizational leadership structure and engaging diverse stakeholders.
The resulting plan outlines a three-year trajectory of organizational and programmatic development focused on improving MAC’s sustainability, visibility and community connections. Critical elements of the plan include investing in capacity through a shared leadership structure, building out a consistent programming platform to serve MAC core constituent groups (cultural organizations, disabled audiences and the disabled workforce in the arts), and engaging in more proactive branding and positioning of MAC and its work.
We take a joyful approach to our work, uplifting and celebrating disabled people within our culture and community. Because we are a pro-disability organization and because disability intersects with all other identities, we aspire to align with the values and intentions of all justice movements and people who uplift access, equity, and inclusion. We will work toward collective liberation, sustainability, the disruption of entrenched power structures.
We lean into our identity as a consortium of disabled advocates and arts & culture professionals. We are a group of disabled and non-disabled people working together to address issues of disability access in museums, arts and culture. We focus on providing information, tools, resources and community support to arts and culture organizations and the practitioners who work with them and within them. MAC’s success is measured primarily through the accessible cultural programming, disability awareness and competency in cultural organizations, employment opportunities, and positive employment experiences for disabled artists and cultural workers that our members deliver through our support. In this way our work indirectly, and intentionally, supports the disabled community beyond our members and partners, including disabled audiences, artists and cultural workers.
We recognize that we cannot create change alone. We remain aware of and connected to the work of others around disability equity in arts and culture and we seek to find opportunities to amplify impact through partnerships and collaborations. We are committed to coalition building within the arts and culture sector and the disability community.
MAC aspires to align our work with the principles and values of Disability Justice. We believe in the importance of leadership by those most impacted and we commit to continue to build and support racially and gender diverse disability leadership within our consortium. We prioritize sustainability. We take a long-term perspective and consider our individual and collective capacity, believing it is better to focus on what we can do well and maintain than to extend beyond our resources. We recognize wholeness and support cross-disability solidarity and intersectionality in our work. We seek to desegregate our approach to disability, to understand the totality of the lives and experiences of the disabled people in our community, and to consider the needs of the whole person in our programs, services and operations.
Following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the Museum, Arts and Culture Access Consortium (MAC) was formed by a small group of museum and disability professionals who started meeting informally to discuss topics related to accessibility at their New York-based institutions. Even now, MAC is the only organization bringing cultural organizations together and providing a hub of resources around access across all arts & culture disciplines in New York City. MAC continues to provide a strong peer network that supports knowledge sharing across organizations/between practitioners and a community for all who are concerned about access in arts and culture.
MAC’s volunteer steering committee is comprised of leaders from the cultural and disability communities and provides oversight of the association’s activities, including professional development workshops, technical assistance to cultural institutions, and the development of public resources related to cultural accessibility. Currently the steering committee plans, manages and undertakes all administrative responsibilities with support from paid project staff engaged to manage funded initiatives as needed. While MAC’s current leadership (steering committee and staff) includes people with disabilities, it lacks the racial and intersectional diversity necessary to authentically lead an organization concerned with collective access and liberation.
As MAC entered the planning process the organization was reckoning with a number of challenges as it adapted to post-pandemic realities. The volunteer structure was under stress with a small group of people taking on the majority of the work and many struggling to keep up with the workload as their own lives and commitments shifted as a result of the pandemic disruption. While MAC continued to have success with the Supporting Transitions program, other programs were less consistent (due to a lack of funding/staffing to move them forward). Members and leadership were feeling an overall lack of direction, momentum and visibility that was limiting the MAC’s impact and potential.