Artist Centering Disability Justice
Alison Bergblom Johnson is an artist whose work crosses media and genre, exploring disability, identity, and joy.
She collaborates with community care and art organizations from small grassroots endeavors to very large, established institutions. Her genres and media include essays, collage, and storytelling. She is an artist, a writer, a performer, an artist organizer, a consultant, and a teaching artist.
Topics I've addressed in my work include the Craigslist personals, traumatic experiences including sexual violence, gender, mental health treatment in a historic sense, and the stories we tell ourselves and our loved ones about taboo experiences.
See links below for more information about my work with current partners Springboard for the Arts, Artability, and Mixed Blood Theater.
Springboard for the Arts national platform Creative Exchange covered some of the partnerships I've cultivated.
- Artist Career Consultant ↗
Through Springboard for the Arts I share expertise with individual artists seeking consults on a variety of topics, including working with community care organizations, pitching your projects to media, and thriving as an artist with a disability. Consults are free or low-cost.
- Theatre Artist Embedded in Community ↗
Mixed Blood describes the 12x12 project as 'Join us at the intersection of art and community as Mixed Blood partners with 12 artists—from ice skaters and poets to chefs and theater makers—working in and with 12 Twin Cities neighborhoods to create short performances that reflect each community. Partnering with individuals and organizations, the artistic reflections will highlight the stories and diversity of our communities. Each piece is performed twice: once in the community where it is created and again at Mixed Blood, when all twelve communities will come together in a performance festival.'
- Teaching Artist with Artability ↗
Artability provides free workshops and hosts an annual art show for the general public to promote mental health in our community. As a teaching artist my goal is for folks to learn new skills and to connect as a learning community.
- Teaching Artist ↗
As a teaching artist I've engaged people with disabilities, elementary school students, and general community members in artistic skill building and community building. Reach out to me directly to learn more about this part of my practice.
Subjects I Engage With
- Mental Health
I've centered mental health in my art making in numerous ways. For instance, my storytelling and installation project about the culture and history of the Craigslist personals documents the manic side of bipolar disorder. Press coverage from Minn Post and the Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighted this project.
I'm a disabled artist. While I've experienced disability since I was very young, I did not grow up knowing I was part of this community. Disability is a frequent topic in my work, and organizing, supporting and being with other artists with disabilities is important to me. I hold a disability justice perspective, and I also believe the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has not yet been fully realized.
My work has often explored cultural restrictions determined by gender, and documented what it is like living in a society that cares about gender. I'm also interested in affirmative and liberatory interactions with cultural ideas of gender. I am a cisgendered woman, inclusion is crucial generally, and in the specific for our transgender and nonbinary siblings.
As humans our bodies sometimes do hold the effects of trauma and exclusion, but we also desire, we also love, we also show up for each other. Pleasure and joy matter, including physically. As I hold and offer conceptions of disabled joy, I am indebted to the many Black scholars, artists and organizers who have practiced and emphasized Black joy.
A new publicly available blog will launch soon here, which will share some of the foundations of these ideas. In addition I will be launching a subscription or two, which will be an access point to my artwork and to explorations of inclusion. For new storytelling related to my experiences with the Craigslist personals please check out my Patreon.
The Primary Artforms I Work In
- A Self That Doesn't Stay on Brand
This experimental essay was part of Woven, Entropy's #metoo series. The Velveteen Rabbit, Cindy Sherman's photography, and cattle all make an appearance. I'm grateful to editor Sylvia Chan for compiling an inclusive series of texts on this topic. Entropy did sunset in 2021. If you'd like a pdf version of this essay, please follow the link above to my Patreon featuring storytelling about the Craigslist personals where it is available to patrons.
- What are the Accommodations of Your Dreams?
This essay is about my emotional support balloon Walter, and was one of the elements of Mn Artists Presents Alison Bergblom Johnson, a curatorial project centering artists with disabilities presented by the Walker Art Center.
- Twin Cities Collage Collective ↗
I am a member of Twin Cities Collage Collective, which strives to create an inclusive and welcoming environment both in-person and online for anyone interested in the medium of collage.
- MPLSART Sketchbook Project 2021 ↗
Started in 2020 as a way to connect and support artists during the pandemic, the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project is the second iteration bringing together a whole new set of amazing Twin Cities artists. Throughout 2021, 70 local artists contributed 120 original works to a series of five traveling sketchbooks.
- Don't You Want Me Baby ↗
Produced and presented by Sally Vardaman, Don't You Want Me Baby was an evening of personal stories at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis in 2019. This show explored the struggle between love and power, and was inspired by the Human League song of the 1980s of a romance gone sour. Video of this story is available in my Patreon.
- Fringe Review: The Right Words: Stories of Justice Served and Justice Thwarted ↗
Presented in the Minnesota Fringe Festival by Story Arts of Minnesota, The Right Words: Stories of Justice Served and Justice Thwarted featured three women storytellers telling stories of imperfect justice. The link is to a review in the Pioneer Press.
- Mn Artists Presents Alison Bergblom Johnson ↗
I led an evening of online events that investigated ways to leave behind stigma and discrimination that is attached to bodies experiencing disability, both invisibly and visibly. What happens when artists with disabilities find support within the mainstream? How do artists with disabilities avoid being mere tokens or separated from communities rooted in disability?
- CabarABLE: Rights/Responsibilities ↗
I curated CabarABLE with a focus on Rights/Responsibilites in 2016 for Patrick's Cabaret. The link is to a promo video for that event. I had a long relationship with Patrick's Cabaret including performing in many open call cabarets and also serving as a FUNeral Director when the organization sunset. For more information about the Cabaret, see their archive at the Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries.
- Chronicles of the Chronic ↗
With Keisha Williams and Victor Montori M.D., I'm one of the jurors for Chronicals of the Chronic at the Rochester Art Center. Zoe Cinel is curator. From the description: 'Chronicles of the Chronic is a group exhibition that features regional, national and international artists whose experience of living in chronically ill bodies directly influences their artistic practice on a physical, emotional and creative level.'