University of Illinois at Chicago

Arts-Based Appreciative Inquiry with Artists Labeled with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

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posted on 2021-08-01, 00:00 authored by Sara Michelle Miller
In alignment with self-advocates and the self-advocacy movement, this project begins with an assumption that people labeled/with intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) have important insight and agency in their lives, situating them as not only capable, but also essential in the evaluation and improvement of the programs in which they engage. This dissertation explores the experiences and perspectives of a small group of artists labeled/with IDD in a community-based studio setting. Using online inclusive methods and arts-based appreciative inquiry, a participatory program-evaluation framework, the project aims to: 1) understand what the artists value about and want for the future of their studio community; and 2) evaluate the efficacy of art-based appreciative inquiry to include artists labeled/with IDD in evaluation of their studio programming. The artists contribute both stories and artwork that illustrate what is important to them about their studio experiences, which includes the people at the studio, both staff and other artists labeled/with IDD, and the ability to create their artwork, artwork using materials and themes that the artists choose. In the future, the artists desire more opportunities for social connection including exhibitions and parties, to have more money, to get out into the community more, and to have more choices and options in terms of materials and training in the arts. The artists’ accounts position them as contributing members of a socially connected studio community, challenging historical framings of people labeled/with IDD as lacking social awareness and inviting exploration into the relationship between impairment, collaboration and IDD. Their desires for more social connection and community inclusion point to their valuable insider knowledge about the strengths and needs of the studio community. The study supports future research using arts based appreciative inquiry that is more inclusive and artist-driven to include artists in evaluation of studio programs.



Sandahl, Carrie


Sandahl, Carrie


Disability and Human Development

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Patsavas, Aly van Heumen, Lieke Hammel, Joy Fudge Schormans, Ann

Submitted date

August 2021

Thesis type



  • en

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