Birthmarks by Jessie Jane Lewis
Rain by Jessie Jane Lewis
Jessie Jane Lewis, art as activism show at SCH Academy
Jessie Jane Lewis, art as activism show at SCH Academy
Jessie Jane Lewis, art as activism show at SCH Academy

Chronic Creativity

Art + Activism by Jessie Jane Lewis

Jessie Jane Lewis (1947 - 2011) was an artist and disability rights activist who graduated from Springside School in 1965. Growing up she loved surfing, skateboarding, and adventure. After receiving degrees from the former Philadelphia College of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts she worked in painting, printmaking, and performance art.  She created profound video work focusing on artists with disabilities, the challenges they live with, and how they persevere to maintain their practice. She was a member of the board of trustees at the Woodmere Art Museum and worked as an art therapist for more than 20 years. She’s most well known for her work as an activist for people with disabilities. In the late 1990s, Ms. Lewis created the Voter Accessibility Reform Initiative. After many years of work, she convinced the city to honor the rights of disabled Philadelphians to vote at accessible polling places on machines that can accommodate those in wheelchairs, people who are blind or with low vision, and people who are deaf or hearing impaired.

On View at SCH: October 13, 2022 - January 26, 2023

Jessie Jane Lewis protesting in wheelchair in Philadelphia

Exhibition Summary

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jessie Jane Lewis was an Artist and Disability Rights Activist. Her artistic practice was grand, encompassing painting, printmaking, illustration, and video performance. Her work was widely shown in Philadelphia and beyond including being accepted to the Whitney Biennial in 1994. In addition to her practice, she was a Recreational Therapist at Montgomery Hospital specializing in the elderly population. One of her goals as a counselor was to teach those who become disabled to live a productive lifestyle. She died from the effects of Multiple Sclerosis after living with, working with, and challenging it for more than half of her life.
 
Ms. Lewis is best known for her Art and Activism, fighting for the rights of Disabled Americans to vote at accessible polling places on accessible voting machines. She is the reason that every polling location in the City of Philadelphia is accessible to all people with disabilities and every voting machine can accommodate those in wheelchairs, people who are blind or with low vision and people who are deaf or hearing impaired.  
 
All of the work in this exhibition documents her journey, and the journey of her body after MS began to claim her sight, her legs, her muscles, but never her spirit. In her own words Lewis stated that she became a part of a minority that any of us can join in an instant. She examined this vulnerability and created work that was self-referential focusing on limitations and barriers. 

Programming and workshops will include a student art making project that will take place in the gallery based on a body of work by Ms. Lewis, special guests will be invited to speak to students about Voters Rights and Accessibility, video screenings for the school community and special alumni events.

Any questions can be directed to curator Melissa Haims at inquiry@mmhaims.com or at 201-349-3112.
 

Plate Project by Upper School Students

Jessie Jane Lewis Plate Project by SCH Students
Jessie Jane Lewis Plate Project by SCH Students
Jessie Jane Lewis Plate Project by SCH Students
Jessie Jane Lewis Plate Project by SCH Students
Jessie Jane Lewis Plate Project by SCH Students

Previous Exhibitions and Happenings


ARTS & NEW MEDIA ProgramS

Music, performing arts, visual arts, and new media—SCH provides an extensive and ever-growing list of creative opportunities throughout all divisions. Beginning with Pre-K, students are taught skills woven around artistic principles, concepts, and habits that grow in complexity from year to year. 

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Interested
iN A PERSONAL TOUR?

Visit SCH's Barbara Crawford Gallery with a member of the SCH Arts Department. 

The gallery is open to the public by appointment only. Note: tours will take place when school is not in session.

Questions? Email our Director of Arts, Megan Monaghan, at mmonaghan@sch.org