World Building in Actions
Shay Erlich (they/them) is a disability justice world builder living in T:karanto. Their work both creatively and professionally reimagines a disability-centered world where disabled people are empowered to love themselves and live free from stigma, shame, and ableism.
They are a champion of disability inclusion in the arts and media sector – working with organizations such as the City of Toronto Arts and Culture department, Canada Media Fund, DAWN Canada, the National Arts Centre – National Creation Fund; where Shay is a disability-arts curatorial advisor. Shay hosts trainings and develops professional development programs for arts organizations that facilitate the development of meaningful disability inclusion in the field. This includes leading Designing Accessible Futures, a first of its kind leadership development program for emerging disabled artists which also reported on the barriers emerging disabled artists face. Additionally Shay has provided accessibility support to a number of arts festivals across Tkaranto including Luminato Festival, the CoMotion Festival, and the Contact Dance International Film Festival. They are also currently involved with several projects as a disability dramaturg developing artistic and creative access to live performance. Shay’s writing on the arts can be found in many publications including The Dance Current, alt.theatre, and The Cripsters.
Shay holds both a BA and MA in Child and Youth Care from Toronto Metropolitan University and is an accomplished scholar on disability justice and Child and Youth Care practice. They spoke at the 2021 Ontario Child and Youth Care conference as the keynote on their work with the Cyborg Circus Project (2018-2021), a disability-justice informed community arts and social service organization for disabled young people. Shay has also developed curriculum on disability justice and Child and Youth Care for Toronto Metropolitan University and Humber College. Their work on disability and Child and Youth Care can also be found in Child and Youth Care publications including a chapter in Child & Youth Care Across Sectors: Canadian perspectives (2019). Shay and co-presenters were also the first to develop a workshop on Medical Assistance in Dying and Child and Youth Care practice on the implications of Bill C-7 on Child and Youth Care as a profession.
Their body of work also includes a significant dance career. Shay was a co-choreographer and dancer of A Provocation on Wheels I and Safe Words (I didn’t say broccoli) with The Cyborg Circus Project. The film version of A Provocation on Wheels I was part of the festival circuit as a selected short at the Contact Dance International Film Festival, the ReelAbilities Film Festival (Toronto), and the Chinook Festival. Shay’s work with other dance companies includes Heart2Heart by Political Movement, and SPUR of the Moment Shakespere Collective. Shay has participated in many prestigious residency and artistic development opportunities including The Inkling Incubator (2019), New Blue Kaeja d’Dance Creative Risk Residency (2019) and Dancing Disability Lab (2020). Recently Shay was the inaugural Accessible Futures artist in residence with North York Arts where they choreographed and produced a short dance film Landscapes: Love Letters to Willow which will debut on the festival circuit in later 2023.
Image description: Shay is sitting in their manual wheelchair in the corner of a wooden dock with metal railing behind them arms outstretched artistically. They are wearing all black with bright yellow shoes, and a bright green binder. Their hair is bleached. The background is a marina at sunset and the sky is pink and blue against the masts of the boats. A large full moon is visible in the darkening sky.