Raleigh series to highlight artists with disabilities and the things that connect us all

Castle Wild band members Andre DiMuzio, left, and Chris Hendricks, who has cerebral palsy, play at last year's A Series of Fortunate Events concert.Courtesy Arts Access

A Series of Fortunate Events is barely a year old, but it’s already making an impact.

In its second-year, the series, also referred to as SOFE, is part of the mission of Arts Access, a Raleigh-based nonprofit. Founded in 1984, Arts Access is dedicated to increasing arts involvement and inclusion for people with disabilities.

You can experience theater, visual art, music and more when the events kick off with a gala on May 3. The events run until May 16, and range in price from free to a $75 pass that gets you into all events.

“When you think about the arts, they really are changing Raleigh, and we don’t want anybody left behind,” said Betsy Ludwig, executive director of Arts Access. “A lot of our culture views disability as a bad thing. SOFE is an intentional way to say this is a celebration of people, who they are, and their talents and gifts. It’s people with disabilities telling their own stories.”

They tell their stories in many ways — through visual art in the exhibit “Ultralight 2;” through an acting showcase at Theatre in the Park; through a screening and discussion of Oscar-winning film “The Shape of Water,” which has a heroine who is mute.

For singer-songwriter Chris Hendricks, music is the way he shares his joys and struggles. This is his second year performing at SOFE, and the Durham-raised singer will headline the May 5 concert with his band Castle Wild.

“This event is very important to me in a very personal way because it focuses on the artistry rather than the condition,” Hendricks said. “I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 4, and it has been nothing but a gift for me ever since.”

Castle Wild will play songs from their newest album, “Pulse,” to be released on April 14. Hendricks is vocals; he also plays acoustic guitar. The band has been described as having an indie pop feel as well as an eclectic ’80s synth sound.

Other acts in the concert include Carolina Lightnin’ (bluegrass), Built for Comfort (blues), and Raleigh’s own 3WB (party). General admission tickets are $20.

If you’re interested in visual art, come to “Ultralight 2” at the United Arts Council. The show opens with a free First Friday opening reception on May 4 at 6 p.m.

“It’s a chance for a working artist get their work out there, and to connect and promote — to do what every artist wants to do,” Ludwig said.

The screening and discussion of “The Shape of Water” on May 10 at the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema promises to be interesting as well. The 2017 film by Guillermo del Toro won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year, but it also received pushback from the deaf community for its depiction of protagonist Elisa, who is mute and communicates with American Sign Language.

“There’s a lot of unhappiness from people in the disability community about how they are portrayed in television and movies,” Ludwig said. “The discussion will ask did ["The Shape of Water”] get it right? Love it or hate it?”

SOFE will also highlight art by children in the Kids’ Art Exhibition on May 12 at noon at Sertoma Art Center. The theme is “Fantastic Beasts,” and creativity will abound. Kids will also have the chance to participate in hands-on crafts and a street painting workshop.

Last but not least is the Theatre Showcase on May 16 (tickets are $15).

Hendricks wants everyone, whether they’re connected to the disability community or not, to come out to the concert and other events.

“Come to the concert to expect the unexpected,” he said. “I would go so far as to say be transformed by the unexpected. … It’s not about what separates us; it’s about what connects us.”

A Series of Fortunate Events

Opening Night Gala

Where: The Laurelbrook, 2319 Hodges Street, Raleigh.
When: Thursday, May 3, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Tickets: $50; get them here.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

First Friday Reception for “Ultralight 2”

Where: United Arts Council, 410 Glenwood Ave #170, Raleigh.
When: Friday, May 4, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Tickets: Free.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

Series of Fortunate Events Concert

Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E Cabarrus St, Raleigh.
When: Saturday, May 5, from 2 to 6 p.m.
Tickets: $20 to $35; get them here.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

“The Shape of Water” Screening and Discussion

Where: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 2116-D New Bern Avenue, Raleigh
When: Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $15; get them here.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

Kids’ Art Exhibition

Where: Sertoma Art Center, 1400 W Millbrook Road, Raleigh
When: Saturday, May 12, at noon.
Tickets: Free.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

Theatre Showcase

Where: Theatre In The Park, 107 Pullen Road, Raleigh
When: Wednesday, May 16, at noon.
Tickets: $15; get them here.
More info: View the Facebook event here.

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