Performing beyond their limitations

The extensive line-up of the 100% Art Festival proves that it is not who you are but what you can do that matters.

The extensive line-up of the 100% Art Festival proves that it is not who you are but what you can do that matters. For three days, hundreds of artists from around the world will convene at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center for Israel's first international, multi-genre festival of disabled artists and performers. Participants are coming from countries including Mexico, Scotland, Turkey and Austria. Turkey alone is sending over 50 performers, including both Turkish and contemporary dance companies as well as a Balkan music company. Other performances include the Mexican Theater of the Blind; the No Problem Orchestra, a group made up of youth with Down's syndrome and mental disabilities, and Sounds of Progress, Scotland's largest integrated music theater company. Says festival director Michael Kirschenbaum, "100% Arts is run according to two guidelines. It is based on professional art and artists, but it is also based on the integration between the able-bodied and the disabled." Nowhere will that integration be more evident than in the opening-night extravaganza, when festival participants will perform alongside almost 200 mixed-ability dancers. The busy schedule incorporates a full range of the creative arts. As well as theater, music and dance performances, paintings, sculpture and photography will be displayed in the Cameri Theater foyer and will be open free of charge to the public throughout the event. The public is also invited to view the entries in Israel's first disability film competition. The festival within a festival has two components: films based on the theme of disabilities and movies made by disabled filmmakers. Competition winners will be announced on the final day of the festival. For Kirschenbaum the 100% Arts Festival is not just about art and culture, it is also a social tool for the integration of disabled people into mainstream society. "We want the 'regular' community to come and see the benefits that they can get from disabled artists," says Kirschenbaum, who is himself wheelchair-bound following an accident resulting from a sniper shooting along the Egyptian border in 1987. Since his accident Kirschenbaum has been involved in general organizations for the disabled and is now the director of Mateam, the NGO organizing the festival, whose function is to promote the work of disabled artists in Israel to the general public. "People should come and see, touch and participate," implores Kirschenbaum. "I am sure that after they are involved in such a happening, they will be totally changed and realize that art is art, no matter who creates it." September 28-30, Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available from Castel, (03) 604-5000 or *5000. Prices range from NIS 40 to NIS 80. For further information visit the Mateam Web site