Doug's Story: Navigating the Arts

Belonging to the present moment is one of the challenges of this work. Goals are important, just as learning from our past is, but it’s easy to get caught up in the past or the future and wind up getting nowhere. If we spend our time reminiscing, the pitfalls and mistakes will turn us inward. Wondering about the future worst-case scenario, and nothing we do will seem like it’s enough. That’s why our faith and our efforts are best used when they are locked into the present moment. Gradually, the coffee we had with a neighbor, the class we joined at a dance studio, the idea we presented to the art museum, one-by-one collect like tiny pixels until every moment adds up and stepping back, a beautiful story of “the good life” emerges.

dougReginaDoug and Regina from the Contemporary Arts Center, taking a break from his role as a museum guide.

A Moment:

May 5, 2016 - 2:30pm Contemporary Art Center

Cincinnati, OH

On this day I find Doug by the welcome desk. With his brilliant grin and sarcastic eyes, he is making small talk with the ladies behind the desk.

“Hey! Long-time no see,” I chirp.

His wheelchair clicks into gear and I’m led through the employee elevator and hallways, into the underbelly of the CAC. Holding still among the crisp white walls and soft lights, we pass by sculptures made of string and exhibitions with culturally disruptive names like “Chasing the Whale and Other Endless Pursuits.”

Doug lives a few blocks north from here, in a nice apartment in Over-the-Rhine where up-and-coming young professionals are flocking. Up and comers like Doug. Except until this day, I have only seen Doug in a setting where his wheelchair and speech device are one among a swath of other disability-related imagery, in a day program with other people with developmental disabilities. Back then, Doug was a disabled young man going to a place that fit with his disability. But on this day, Doug is a lover of art, a man with insights and humor, and a camera operator who is giving me access to the “employee-only” corridors of the art center. Today, he is surrounded by glass-enclosed artworks and cluttered cubicles and sculptures made of string. I still see his disability, but I also see Doug.

He debriefs quickly with his supervisor about the next film that he’ll be working on, and one of his co-workers attaches a tiny GoPro camera to Doug’s wheelchair. Things are moving fast and I realize I underestimated how much work he needs to get done while I’m there, and that I might actually be in the way. Ben, his staff from Starfire, walks with him through the exhibits directing the shot, and Doug follows cue. The GoPro and wheelchair combination is a perfect set up for recording art smoothly, in a way that helps the viewer arrive at the exhibit through Doug’s point of view. His vantage point is not just different; it’s instructive and useful.

Doug’s story is a success story. Through the use of his wheelchair and a GoPro camera, he has landed a job at a local art museum and become an integral part of their marketing and communications team. His videos are played on the Contemporary Art Center's website and Vimeo, and have become an asset for the organization.

This is also a long story - of a billion steps that were taken leading up to this day, when I am standing by Doug getting swept up in his work. And that is my take away. This moment is one of many - and as each stacks on the other, they will continue to build and deepen the relationships and valuable contributions Doug is making.

As we head back toward the editing suite where Doug uploads his footage for the editor to work with, I hear the bantering back and forth of co-workers who truly love to work with one another.  Seeing this, I understand that above all else in common, greatest gift we share in all of us is love. When that gift is both accepted and reciprocated, it makes belonging to the present moment not only more manageable, but an altogether joyful thing.

To view Doug and the Contemporary Art Center's work together, check out their videos gallery tours here: