Massachusetts Office on Disability “Breaking Barriers” Art Exhibit

The Massachusetts Office on Disability is a state agency with the mission of ensuring full and equal participation in all aspects of life by persons with disabilities. In early 2017, MOD created a new public outreach effort, that is, we asked the public to submit original artwork that depicts people with disabilities “Breaking Barriers.”  Much of our agency’s work focuses on providing technical assistance to the public on various disability-related laws and regulations. Therefore, one purpose of the call for art was to ensure that we stay in touch with the human aspect of the agency’s mission: dignity and self-determination for all people with disabilities.

The public response to the call for art was very positive; we received about one hundred amazing entries from talented individuals across the Commonwealth!  We then assembled a jury of experts to determine which pieces would best reflect the theme of “Breaking Barriers.”  The jury was comprised of Pops Peterson, Artist in Residence of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; Marian Brown, Founding Executive Director of Arts Connect International; David D’Arcangelo, Director of MOD; Dan Serig, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs of Massachusetts College of Art & Design; and Charles J. Washburn, former Vice President & COO of VSA Massachusetts.



The Breaking Barriers exhibit ran from November 14th through November 24th at the fourth floor display area of the Massachusetts State House. An opening reception was held with over one hundred guests in attendance including artists, their friends and families, Massachusetts legislators, and other supporters. Each artist was presented with a gubernatorial citation acknowledging his or her contribution.

“Celebrating the tremendous and varied talent of individuals with disabilities was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon”, shares Work Without Limits Director and exhibit guest, Kathy Petkauskos. “Both the artists and artwork represented amazing diversity. Witnessing the state Senators and Representatives recognize and present citations to the artists from their districts was certainly a highlight! I applaud MOD for taking the time and effort to showcase these artists, and I hope that this type of effort and event will continue in the years to come.”


By participating in the call for art, all artists shared their talent to help MOD to raise awareness of how persons with disabilities break barriers and overcome stigma. With about 1,500 employees and approximately 4,000 visitors passing through the State House daily, the exhibition surely made an impact.


Visit gallery with audio description of the artwork

Photos: Deb Luchini 

Author Bio: Rita DiNunzio is the Assistant Director for Communications and Policy at the Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD). Rita helps manage the disability rights trainings offered by MOD to state and local government agencies, private organizations, and the public on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and other state and federal disability rights laws. Since 2015, Rita has been presenting and training on disability rights laws at the state, regional, and national level. Rita began working at MOD in 2012 as an Advocate assisting individuals with disability-based discrimination and denial of service issues. Prior to working at MOD, Rita completed an internship with the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council while earning her Master of Science in Ethics and Public Policy at Suffolk University in Boston.