Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba originated in March 2008 as a disability art piece, The SPARK Initiative, by Susan P. Gibson of Winnipeg. The art piece consisted of two community gatherings, at Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) and the Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC) in Winnipeg, featuring an artist video, general consultation and sharing circle. Gibson described her creative process as “moving people instead of paint, clay or ink.”
Participants at the sessions identified the need for an organized alliance of artists with disabilities covering all arts disciplines. The SPARK Initiative grew into the SPARK Arts and Disability Network, spearheaded by Susan Gibson and co-founder and freelance curator Marie Bouchard, formally bringing together artists with disabilities and stakeholders with an interest in promoting accessible arts in Manitoba.
In Spring 2008, a volunteer Steering Committee was established, comprised of visual, performing and literary artists at varying levels of professionalism, arts administrators and other professionals. The Committee identified SPARK’s vision, mission and goals, and began outreach into the community.
SPARK incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in May 2011 and held its first Annual General Meeting in June 2011. It now operates as Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM).