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September 16, 2021
Giving Back: Elise Schaffer, Art is for Everyone
Artist, musician, blogger and disability advocate, Elise Schaffer gives back in a big way. At the age of eight, Schaffer began playing the violin, kicking off a life-long love affair with the arts. The list of Elise’s volunteer work in the arts includes some familiar Lehigh Valley places like: El Sistema Lehigh Valley, Godfrey Daniels, JuxtaHub Creative Entrepreneurs + IDEAS Committee, as well as the ever-growing Lehigh Valley Arts Podcast.
In her free time, Schaffer does freelance work building virtual tours for galleries and museums—assisting in making art-filled spaces available to the masses. Her blog (on medium.com) shines a spotlight on “the vibrant art communities in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, and beyond.” But what may make Schaffer a true pioneer in the art community is her ongoing academic research. Leading the charge is her project, Access and Adaptations in Public Art Destinations. The purpose of her research is to determine how forward-thinking art venues in the United States use modern technologies to create experiences for people with disabilities that are more accessible and inclusive while remaining specific to the organization’s overall function. Schaffer’s project, titled Accessibility in Arts Spaces: How Modern Technology and Creative Adaptations Promote Inclusion, explored the impact of arts spaces not being accessible to people with disabilities. In the past, Schaffer worked with Lehigh Valley Arts Council, becoming very connected with the topic of the research project. “Arts organizations should offer consistent, accessible options and accommodations for individuals of all abilities,” Schaffer said. “Arts spaces that build accessibility into their everyday operations are spaces that are truly embracing inclusion.”
In April 2019, Schaffer won first place in the arts and humanities category at the Eastern Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium held at Penn State Hazleton for her research. In Schaffer’s new position as the Coordinator of Museum Experience and Access at Lehigh University Art Galleries, she hopes to incorporate her passion for arts accessibility and research into her work.