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The first thing you read when you visit the website of Indianapolis artist Wug Laku is this: "Art is where you find it."
While it is true, the arts are all around us, for many people aspiring to begin a career in the arts the questions of where and how to begin can leave them feeling discouraged and often alone. This could be true for any artist, but perhaps even more so for artists with a disability. That is something Wug Laku understands all too well.
For 20 years, art has been Wug's career. More recently he has expanded his resume to include running his own gallery featuring his work as well as the work of other artists, and developing a vacant industrial complex into new artist studio space. With a plate more than full, Wug agreed to take on one additional project - chairman of ArtsWORK Indiana and coordinator of the Creative Networks satellite project.
In 2004, an initial series of forums, Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities, led to the creation of an Indianapolis-based networking group, ArtsWORK Indiana, to help facilitate access to careers in the arts for people with disabilities.
"My involvement with ArtsWORK Indiana began in 2006 when they were setting up their website and wanted to do a story about artists with disabilities," Laku said. "I've been around the arts for 20 some years and they relied on me for information and expertise in this area. Eventually, they asked me to be chairman of the group."
ArtsWORK Indiana is a partnership program with the Indiana Arts Commission, VSA Indiana, and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. With funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center at the University of California, ArtsWORK Indiana was able to expand the Indianapolis model to satellite programs in Bloomington and New Albany. The Bloomington group is lead by artist Nadine Pinede, and artist Susan Gorsen leads the New Albany group.
"For the most part, these monthly networking opportunities are intended for people looking to expand their skills, develop their careers, but there is a good mix between working artists and new people just getting started," Laku explained. "Most are looking for camaraderie. Sharing resources plays a big role too. Just being able to network like this saves a lot of false starts for people just getting started."
With all of his many creative career irons glowing, Laku recently handed the reins of the ArtsWORK Indianapolis group to artist Nina McCoy, but he remains supportive and passionate about the value of the program.
"This is something I really believe in," he said. "If I can help someone, if I can help streamline the process for someone else, I am happy to do that. But that is true of everyone involved with this."
Laku said the ArtsWORK Indiana networking meetings are held monthly and are open to anyone in the arts, be they artists, instructors or arts administrator. He is quick to point out the meetings are not just for those with disabilities, but anyone interested in helping those trying to start a career in the arts. For more information about the program, visit www.artsworkindiana.org.