2018 Process and Presence Fashion Show

Fashion Competition is Open!

The deadline for storyboard submissions is May 15, 2018

DisArt Fashion Show is on September 22, 2018 | Grand Rapids | Michigan

Please send all submissions to jill@disartnow.org

Your Submission

Looking for avant-garde, add-on fashion pieces or full designs for each of our Disabled models who will be wearing a fitted black undergarment. Your look or piece will be placed over this garment. Submissions will be judged on their ability to creatively communicate the aesthetic themes of the exhibition discussed in length below.

Winning designers will be chosen by a panel of  professionals working in fashion and Disability Art.

The Invitation

DisArt is quickly becoming one of the world’s most recognized producers of innovative, contemporary, Disability Art events: through its groundbreaking access designs, employment of new technologies, and countercultural presentations, DisArt proves a commitment to raising the voice and visibility of the Disabled artist in the world. This is your chance to get involved with a movement destined to change cultural expectations, explanations, and experiences of fashion itself.

DisArt seeks artists and designers to submit entries for its 2018 Process and Presence Fashion  Show, scheduled for September 22, 2018 at the world-renowned Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (Meijer Gardens) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Part celebration and part critique, this will not be your typical runway show. Instead, this evening of fashion, artists, and Disabled models will collectively speak to the placement/displacement of the disabled body within the fashion world. Through a state-of-the-art production, the expected audience of 2000+ will be participants in a cultural and political event that makes a statement about design and the Disabled body.

The 2018 DisArt Fashion Show will be a time-based entry in ArtPrize which is an international art competition which occurs in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If selected as a winning entry, all winnings will be redirected back to DisArt which is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Judith Scott, untitled

History and Evolution of the DisArt Fashion Show

DisArt began its fashion show program in the Spring of 2015 when it hosted a runway show as part of its inaugural Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Easily the most highly attended event of that Festival, the 2015 fashion show offered a strong alternative to “traditional” fashion shows which too often praise perfection rather than individuality. Our fashion shows aren’t meant to inspire audiences through a parade of Disabled people in fancy clothes. Instead, they are intentionally designed events meant to explore the sometimes awkward but always innovative fusion of disability and style. In 2016, ELEVATE: A DisArt Fashion Show celebrated disability fashion alongside Disabled identity,  innovative design practices, and community building.

Traversing three different buildings on outdoor ramps, the runway for ELEVATE was 20 feet off the ground, allowing our models to rise above the large audience. Take a look at the video to understand just how powerful that show was.


ELEVATE: A DisArt Fashion Show

2018 Process and Presence Fashion Show

Process and Presence: A DisArt Fashion Show will continue the effort to help audiences reconfigure their understandings of disability and fashion. Inspirations for the show will be pulled from the Process and Presence: Contemporary Disability Sculpture exhibition occurring simultaneously at Meijer Gardens. The exhibition themes, discussed in detail below, provide a rich backdrop for the fashion show, one deeply entrenched in the history of the art. Designers and artists submitting looks will be challenged to configure a design which speaks directly to the art, styles, and traditions evoked in the exhibition, including minimalism, process art, and abstraction. In other words, your submission will be evaluated on its ability to make bridges between fashion and the art being exhibited.

The Perks

  • DisArt Fashion Designer Grand Prize: $5000 scholarship + travel stipend up to $1000 (USD);
  • Runner Up: $2500 scholarship + travel stipend up to $1000 (USD);
  • Increased audience and media exposure due to the event being included in ArtPrize; 
  • Credit on the DisArt Now website and social media;
  • DIStopia Podcast Interview

Lisa Bufano, Stilts, photo: GABA

Terry Williams, untitled

Inspiration for the Designs | Process and Presence: Contemporary Disability Sculpture Exhibition

For over two years, DisArt has been partnering with artist collectives from Japan, Australia, the UK, and the US in order to assemble a collection of art objects that, when exhibited together, communicate powerful messages about Disability Art and its common, cultural language. The exhibition Process and Presence: Contemporary Disability Sculpture is the first of its kind, focusing only on abstract, process based art.  

The exhibition will offer audiences a survey of contemporary Disability sculpture through the work of 21 contemporary artists who present to the viewers a local, national, and a global perspective on the human experience of disability. Through the finest examples of three dimensional practice (sculpture, performance, installation, and video art), the exhibition will emphasize the relationship between disability and the fundamental human experiences of change and embodiment. While the artists will draw from distinctive cultural differences,  the two common themes will be an aesthetic of material process and presence, reminiscent of the 1960s movement Post-Minimalism or Process Art. The principles of process and change surrounding the works call attention to the experiences of our bodies and minds as historically contingent. Thus the work’s impact is found in a reliance on its conditions and context, including the nature of the materials, the location in which the work is experienced and  the effect of the work on viewers’ perceptions of their environment. The concept of presence, found in both the evidence of the actions of the artists’ bodies and minds and the presence of the viewers in space, environment, and relationship, will demonstrate how the human condition of disability manifests in the essentially creative act of living.

Our hope is that your designs will offer audiences a continuation of the artistic motifs seen in the work of these  contemporary artists, challenging the status quo of fashion  and style itself. More plainly, your design entry should highlight process, use of material, and repetition. Abstract, monumental, avant-garde looks are encouraged.

The Artwork

There are a variety of artists included in the exhibition, some of whose work is pictured here. Designers wishing to submit to the fashion show should research the following artists: Judith Scott (USA), Lisa Bufano (USA), Wesley DeVries (Michigan), Yamamoto Ai (Japan), Sachie Takada (Japan),  Atsushi Yoshimoto (Japan), Shinichi Sawada (Japan), Terry Williams (Australia), Petra Kuppers (Michigan), Neil Marcus (California) and Brian Catling (UK).

Wesley DeVries

Tony Pedemonte,  TPe 068, 2014

Brian Catling, Blind Crook, 2017

Yamamoto Ai



Dr. David Rosen has been the senior vice president and president of three design colleges with fashion programs and has worked numerous fashion shows. Currently he serves as a chair of the economic development committee for the Nashville Fashion Alliance, where he is intimately involved in the business of fashion.

Javier Cruz is a New York-based fashion designer, strategist and consultant who has worked with world renown companies such as Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein, just to mention a few.  His latest positions include working with Stoll America, Nike and Gap Inc.  Early in his career he was awarded a coveted spot in the senior fashion show at F.I.T. and prior to that, his Associate degree thesis won him the Critic’s Award.

Robert Andy Coombs is a photographer currently living and working in Grand Rapids Michigan. His artwork delves into disability culture, activism, and sexuality. He earned his BFA at Kendall College of Art.

If Your Work is Selected

If your design is chosen, it will be matched with a particular model who you will work with closely to make sure measurements and fit are appropriate. This process of fittings and dialogue will occur in person (if you are local) or through digital technology and the assistance of Grand Rapids-based garment workers and designers.

Submission Process

Please send all submissions to jill@disartnow.org. The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2018.

Please include the following in your submission email:

  • Storyboard submission, JPEG images of sketches and/or finished products
  • Contact information: name, email, phone
  • A statement about your capacity to complete the work by September 2018
  • A complete response to the following prompt: What would being a designer for the DisArt Fashion Show mean to you personally and/or professionally?

By competing in this competition, you agree to allow DisArt to use photographs and/or digital imagery of your entry and yourself, if you are a winner, in print and electronic publications and press releases.

About DisArt

DisArt is an arts and culture organization committed to raising the participation of Disabled people through carefully curated contemporary art exhibitions, cutting edge, public events, and consultation. We believe that Disabled people deserve to do more than merely get inside spaces and events – they deserve to fully participate in our culture. The philosophical work of DisArt is thus centered on the idea that disability belongs within the larger, cultural imagination regarding the varied systems and meanings of human identity and community. That philosophy is put into action as DisArt creates and facilitates cutting-edge, contemporary art programs that center on disability, identity, design, and community making. These relational programs intentionally engage audiences in ways that change how they think about, speak about, and act towards each other.

About Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

An international attraction, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is celebrated for its sculpture collections and exhibitions, gardens and botanical attractions. Opening in 1995, it has rapidly grown to be among one of the most visited art museums in the United States with more 750,000 annual visitors.