Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and visitors with disabilities striving to advance accessibility and inclusion across the Chicago region's vast cultural spaces.
CCAC is 501(c)(3) nonprofit run solely by volunteers.
2016: Lifeline Theatre awarded CCAC and its co-chairs the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award.
2015: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awarded CCAC the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Emerging Leader award.
Bringing Chicago together around the intersection of disability and the arts was Christena's main aim as she started CCAC in 2012. Having over a decade of experience in cultural accessibility from the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Center, she currently serves as Director of Education at the Evanston Art Center. Thanks to her brother Travis who has Down syndrome, cultural accessibility became her passion as they visited museums and attended plays together. Christena speaks nationally and internationally about cultural accessibility, especially the importance of establishing a local access knowledge network in one's own community. Childhood Museum Memory: My fourth grade class studied From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which involves two kids running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum. Our class slept over at our city's art museum (Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum). It was magical to live like the characters in the book for a night!
Risa is a Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust. Previously she was the Program Coordinator for the 2015 yearlong ADA 25 Chicago initiative. In her current role as Program Manager, she works with the Disabilities Fund at CCT and with ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. Her work includes developing ways to incorporate full inclusion into all operations throughout CCT. Memorable Cultural Experience: I had to be about seven or eight years old and my parents took me and my brother (who’s three years younger) to Madison Square Garden to see Crosby Still Nash and Young. I remember thinking that it was so cool and weird at the same time watching all these hippies and former hippies rock out all night (way past my bedtime). That didn’t stop me from standing on the chair and rocking out as well – minus the lighter and other hippy equipment, of course.
Anna is the Director of Retail and Events at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois where she oversees the Special Events, Facility Rental, Food Service, and Retail departments. She has worked in museums in both Chicago and Washington D.C. since 2006 creating memorable and fun experiences for visitors that connect them to the unique story of the organization. Childhood Museum Memory: Growing up in southern California, my mother took my sister and I to the Madonnari festival every year at the Santa Barbara Mission where dozens of artists used nothing but chalk to create truly stunning works of art on the pavement. Their skill fascinated me – especially when I compared their work to my own sidewalk “masterpieces.”
Rachel is a staff attorney and PABSS Project Manager at Equip for Equality, Illinois' governor-designated protection and advocacy agency, whose mission is to advance the human and civil rights of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. Her work focuses on employment discrimination and civil rights cases on behalf of clients with disabilities. As an individual who is profoundly deaf, Rachel has long advocated for equal access in cultural institutions including in museums and live theater. Memorable Cultural Experience: My second grade teacher designed a semester-long cultural immersion where we studied Japan through a variety of experiences including studying and wearing Japanese clothing, eating Japanese food, making traditional wooden shoes, creating haiku and even spending a day in a Japanese tea room replicated in our classroom. From this experience, I became fascinated by learning about new cultures which led to a lifelong love of travel to explore new places.
Matthew Bivins is a web and software developer, actor and musician who moved to Chicago in 2008. He and brother Evan focus on designing and developing projects for nonprofits and other organizations for social good, and are responsible for building chicagoculturalaccess.org. Matt provides captioning for the D/deaf and hard of hearing community at Chicago live theaters with his project CaptionPoint, and loves dreaming up ways to help cultural organizations use technology to provide accessibility and inclusivity to patrons. Memorable Museum Moment: Before living in Chicago, I visited the city with my band and happened to catch an incredible Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at the Art Institute. Inspired, my brother and I went home to Charleston, SC and put together a theater piece that was a collaboration of musicians, writers, dancers, actors, designers, and a shadow puppeteer. On that same memorable day, I asked a beautiful deaf girl to come see the exhibit with me, and she said "yes." A few years later she also said "yes" when I proposed. Merci, Toulouse!
Alyssa is the Early Childhood Learning Experiences Coordinator at The Field Museum. In this role, she oversees programming for children in the Crown Family PlayLab such as Art & Science Spotlight and Dino Camp. Alyssa's background is in education, having served as an elementary teacher for 5 years before entering the world of informal education. Alyssa's passion for equity stems from her experience working with diverse groups of students in the classroom; she continues to promote access and inclusion in her role at The Field Museum by designing inclusive opportunities for families and individuals. Memorable Museum Moment: One of my most cherished museum memories is my time spent exploring the children's museum in Lexington, Kentucky with my grandmother. She'd take me every summer - favorite part was getting to stand inside a giant bubble!
Evan serves as CCAC Board Vice President. He was formerly the Director of Audience Experience at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he was honored to have developed the theater’s accessibility programming and services. Along with CCAC co-chairs Christena Gunther and Lynn Walsh, Evan - a founding co-chair from 2014 to 2018 - was acknowledged with the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award from Lifeline Theatre Company (2016) and an Emerging Leaders Award from The John F. Kennedy Center (2015). He served as a member of the 2014 LEAD Advisory Planning Committee (Chicago) and is a recipient of the Actors’ Equity Kathryn V. Lamkey Award for dedication to equal opportunity (2012). Through his roles with CCAC and Steppenwolf, and in the collaborative spirit of the incredible Chicago theater community, Evan is proud to help other arts organizations develop accessibility programs through mentorship, pep talks and the loan of equipment. Favorite Cultural Memory: My time spent with family at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park -- getting dizzy in the shark roundabout, fogging up the glass on the wildlife dioramas and contemplating an escape route if I ever fell into the alligator pool.
Kris is the Director of Exhibits at Shedd Aquarium. She has nearly twenty years of experience in exhibit planning and development for a range of museum types, including zoos, botanic gardens, history museums and parks. Although she now directs Shedd’s exhibit planning and design initiatives, her background is in exhibit and content development. Fun Museum Fact: I have visited museums in more than thirty countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and now I love sharing my love of museums and theater with my two young daughters. My four-year-old always has lots of ideas for what they could have done better!
Hillary is the Manager of Operations at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, working directly with companies to ensure front of house set up needs are met and overseeing daily security staff operations in the facility. Previously at the Harris, Hillary worked on the part-time Audience Service staff (the orange scarf-wearing people if you’ve been to the theater) and had an opportunity to then become the full-time House Manager for the venue. Hillary is very excited for an opportunity to further the accessibility goals of the Harris as well as learn from and with other professionals from Chicago cultural institutions. Memorable Cultural Experience: As a vocal performance major at Northwestern, a small volunteer group of singers had the chance to perform comedic opera scenes in English at the Kohl Children’s Museum up in Glenview a few times a year. It was a lot of fun performing opera for these kids in such a nontraditional setting (sometimes they even laughed with us instead of at us!), and it created a unique outreach opportunity for both the university and the museum.
Brittany is the Director of Audience Services at the Chicago Humanities Festival, where she has worked since 2013 leading the quality of audience experience, creating inclusive audience-serving initiatives, overseeing box office and front-of-house staff and operations, working in nearly 40 cultural spaces throughout Chicagoland. Brittany holds a BFA in Photography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Childhood Cultural Memory: Growing up outside of Champaign, Illinois, many elementary and middle school field trips bussed us to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Being an artistic youngster, I was enraptured at shows like King Lear and Ragtime, inspiring me to become a theatre kid in high school and a humanities devotee as an adult.
Jeanna is the Manager of Grants and Program Administration at the Grand Victoria Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jeanna served as the Manager of Operations and Development at 3Arts, a nonprofit arts service and grantmaking organization that advocates for Chicago’s women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities. Jeanna holds a BFA in Photography & New Media from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MA in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Memorable Museum Moment: I had the opportunity as a Visitor Services staff member to participate in a private, curator-led tour of the Art Institute's Modern Wing prior to its opening. As an avid modern art lover, it was incredibly exciting to roam the quiet, near empty museum and it created a unique and memorable way to experience the work of some of my all-time favorite artists.
Mike is the Managing Director for Nothing Without a Company and previously worked as the Box Office & Sales Manager for Writers Theatre. He has worked in arts administration for fifteen years, and has thoroughly enjoyed spending time helping to expand accessible programs and services for audience members. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with an inspiring and effective group and to help provide resources for others. Memorable Cultural Experience: In my early years of elementary school, I visited my first museum, the Pettigrew Home and Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; which was the home of South Dakota’s first Senator Richard Pettigrew. I remember feeling like I had stepped back into the 1800’s as I entered the preserved home and museum--it was almost magical. This visit instilled in me a great interest in history and art as well as an appreciation for cultural spaces.
Lynn Walsh was one of the founding co-chairs of CCAC. She is the Accessibility and Inclusion Manager at Shedd Aquarium. With over 29 years of museum experience, Lynn has worked in the Visitor Services departments of the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, and was on the Founding Board of Directors and managed Imagisphere Children’s Museum Preview Center in Bedford, Texas. She was a founding member of Chicago Children's Museum's award-winning access and inclusion initiative, serving as the Manager of Guest Access and Inclusion, and has authored publications featured in Curator: The Museum Journal and The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum. Childhood Museum Memory: While visiting MSI as a 3rd grader, I clearly remember a classmate running head-on into one of the giant pillars just outside of the Steel exhibit. That classmate left with a souvenir like no other--a golf ball-sized bump on the center of his forehead!
Above photo: Fifteen of Chicago's cultural access administrators holding plaques celebrating
CCAC's Kennedy Center LEAD Awardfor Emerging Leaders in August 2015.
Photo by Christopher Zarconi.