ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival returns to Houston in its fifth year February 16 – March 6 with a speaker series, an award-winning film festival, live music jam session, art exhibit, educational tours to local schools and seminars at offices around Houston, and more, all with the intention to use the arts as a vehicle to educate the community and change perceptions about individuals with varying levels of abilities, all at no cost to participants and attendees.
ReelAbilities, originally founded in New York City in 2007 and now presented in 15 cities, generates and nurtures awareness of those living with disabilities of all types by showcasing their lives and stories through art, film, music and inspirational talks. The film portion of the festival will take place from February 19 – 23 at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, where 15 movies will be screened followed by interactive panels to encourage audience discussion.
Houston is considered one of the most innovative cities hosting ReelAbilities, as this festival utilizes multiple avenues to further educate the community beyond strictly film, including ReelMusic, an all-inclusive jazz and blues music jam being held at the Secret Group space where professional musicians invite artists with disabilities to perform with them, and ReelPeople: UPAbilities – a series of intellectually-stimulating, 20-minute discussions with thought leaders from across the country held at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music. This year’s focus will be on the impact video games have on the lives of those living with varying levels of abilities. Additionally, Houston will continue to extend the ReelAbilities mission to local schools, via ReelEducation, and businesses, through its ReelWorkplace program, to conduct interactive sessions about the ways students and employees can respectfully live and work alongside their peers and colleagues living with disabilities.
Along with host city organizer, JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion and in collaboration with the City’s Department of Neighborhoods Houston’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, lead support from The Bristow Group and TIRR Memorial Hermann (founding partner), all
ReelAbilities Houston events are free and open to the public. Mayor Sylvester Turner also joins as a member of the Honorary Committee of ReelAbilities Houston 2017. Dr. Kelly Cohen Fein M.D. has facilitated an additional partnership with The Houston Ballet, where she currently serves as a member of the board, for a pre-event celebration on February 14.
“The impact that ReelAbilities Houston has on the lives of Houstonians is immeasurable”, said event chair, Vikki Evans. “Even if you don’t live with a disability yourself, you’ve probably interacted with someone dealing with a disability that you may not fully understand or know how to interact with.” She goes on to say, “It is our mission at ReelAbilities to challenge the way people think about disabilities, and to encourage Houstonians to take action – treating each other with more respect and compassion than ever before.”
The 2017 festival will celebrate ReelArt in a brand new way, with the grand opening of the Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company, a public showroom and gallery to
sell the artwork, photography and products of artists with disabilities. The showroom is now open Mondays from 10:00-8:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00-5:00, and Fridays from 10:00-4:00, with the new exhibition beginning on January 30th.