One Singular - But Collaborative - Sensation: Positive Exposure’s 2021 Change How You See Celebration

It was a night of all nights – the Positive Exposure 2021 Change How You See Celebration, which aired virtually on September 22, and is still available for streaming, free of charge. This magical, harmonious and inclusive event, chockful with a spectacular blend of performances, tributes, ambassadors, advocacy organizations, physicians and honorees, was masterfully crafted by Nick Corley.

BY Liz Matejka-Grossman | October 2021 | Category: Employment & Transition

One Singular - But Collaborative - Sensation: Positive Exposure’s 2021 Change How You See Celebration

Corley, a beloved Broadway actor, director and producer, whose credits include She Loves Me, Mary Poppins, You Can’t Take It with You, and A Christmas Carol, also served as Associate Director on the recent revivals of Burn This and Plaza Suite. Currently, Corley is Associate Director of Candace Bushnell’s Is There Still Sex in the City, opening at NYC’s Daryl Roth Theater this fall. Corley, who also directed Positive Exposure’s first virtual celebration in 2020, was initially introduced to the organization through his friend and Positive Exposure’s Director of Development, Lisa Johnson. 

“I n putting together this year’s Change How You See Celebration, it was important to me that it reflect the commitment and emotion of the organization and that everyone had ownership of the event – and that we were not just ‘performing for’ but rather ‘engaging with’,” Corley explains. “I love that through this celebration, the medical world, the disability human rights activist world, parents, performing artists, and the inclusion community itself were all interacting together. The celebration reflects not just Positive Exposure, but their worldwide goal. The celebration is truly about connection and working together.”

“On a personal artistic level,” Corley continues, “I love bringing together people who may have different areas in the performing arts, discover what magic can happen when they work together, what new and impactful opportunities arise – and I am so lucky to have such great help to pull this off!”

“Everyone at Positive Exposure pitches in to make this happen.  All the amazing performers who said ‘yes’ and lent us their time and boundless talent. The incredible choreographer, James Kinney, who made our dream of honoring the late Positive Exposure supporter and friend, Ann Reinking, happen in such a beautiful way. All the fantastic film makers who helped create impactful mini movies. The amazing community from around the world who sent in toasts and heartfelt testimonials. And lastly our tireless editor, Matt Axel, who beautifully pulls  everything together, making sure it was also accessible for all.”

“‘It takes village’ as they say but in a way that’s the point – We can be one big supportive global village, if we simply embrace the beauty of all humanity,” reflects Corley. “I love that Positive Exposure reminds us of that simple truth every day.”  

This sentiment was reiterated by Positive Exposure’s Director and co-host for the evening, Rick Guidotti, who founded the 501(c)3 organization nearly 25 years ago and is dedicated to promoting a more equitable and inclusive world through award-winning photography, films, lectures and educational programs.

“There is such amazing beauty and grace in every single person on this planet and we are here to celebrate everything that makes us unique,” Guidotti exclaimed in the opening to the celebration. “The more we include everyone as part of our global community and embrace the gifts that each of us have to offer, the richer and fuller all of our lives will be – together we have the power to effect social change by the very celebration of our individual humanity.”

Artist Marco Santini’s Wall of Love, a four-story mural in the courtyard that Positive Exposure shares with The Church of St. Edward the Martyr and the New York Common Pantry served as a backdrop for many of the performances as did NYC’s Central Park, Duke Ellington Circle, Museum Mile, and the rooftops and fire escapes of East Harlem where the Positive Exposure Gallery is located.

Performances included The Broadway Boys (Jesse Nager, Artistic Director, Jamison Scott, J Daughtry, Michael Linden, Jordan Ellis and Gabe Violett) filmed and edited by Nolan Doran, Treshelle Edmond (Broadway’s Spring Awakening), Mandy Harvey (America’s Got Talent) with Warren “Wawa” Snipe, Christopher Corsini and Shaheem, Lachi (PBS), Portia Cina, The Merry Rockers with Aaron Nigel Smith and Tubby Love, David Lutken, David Finch, Spiff Wiegand, Brittany Brook, Robin Skye, Peter Boynton, Mike Lusk, Deb Thomas and Brandon Kazan-Maddox, GODA, or grandchild of deaf adults. And serving as co-host, 21-year-old Brandon Farbstein, a global empowerment speaker, GenZ activist and author.

In remembrance of the late, legendary performing artist, Ann Reinking, Rick Guidotti recounted the 2001 premiere of his photographic exhibition for the Human Genome Celebration at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Among the images featured was a young boy named Christopher living with Marfan syndrome who was also the son of Ann Reinking. Christopher was the first person living with Marfan syndrome that Guidotti ever photographed and it was also a pivotal moment in the making of what Positive Exposure is today. 

In tribute to Ann Reinking, whose talents extended into the depths of disability rights and inclusion activism, choreographer James Kinney (Fosse) in collaboration with cinematographer, Pierre Marais, created a Fosse-style reimagining complete with tilted bowler hats, shoulder rolls, splayed fingers and laybacks. Featured dancers included Heidi Latsky Dance Core Company Member, Donald Lee with Broadway dancers, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Yesenia Ayala and Arisa Odaka. As actress, dancer and singer, Bebe Neuwirth remarked about her special friend, “Like her fierce indomitable spirit, Annie lives on in the work she created and in the legacy of her inclusion advocacy. Annie saw dance in everything and everyone. To her, it was the expression of the human soul and the celebration of our bodies.”

Judith Heumann, an internationally recognized leader in the disability community and lifelong civil rights advocate for disadvantaged people, presented the 2021 Positive Exposure Rising Leader Award to Xian Horn who describes herself as a joyful half-Asian woman with cerebral palsy, a beauty and accessibility advocate, speaker, instructor, Forbes contributor, and founder of the non-profit Give Beauty Wings.

Tim Shriver, Dr. Rick Rader and Special Olympic athlete, Kathleen Maggi, presented Steven Perlman, DDS, MScD, DHL with the 2021 Positive Exposure Spirit of Change Award for creating Special Olympics Healthy Athlete, currently the largest global, public, health program for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is also the founder of Special Olympics, Special Smiles, an oral health initiative of Special Olympics International and integral component of bringing healthcare services to athletes. “There are 5 million athletes in Special Olympics and the fact that I could do something to impact those children and adults living in 150 countries was an incredible thing,” Dr. Perlman explained. “Working with Positive Exposure has been so amazing to me because we have to educate the next generation whether it be physicians or nurses, or occupational therapists, or physical therapists, or speech and language, or nutritionists.” 

Next year will mark the 25th Anniversary of Positive Exposure working collaboratively with global organizations, hospitals, medical schools, educational institutions and advocacy groups to promote a more inclusive and compassionate world, impacting millions. Positive Exposure has continued its work to transform public perceptions in which individuals and communities at risk of stigma and exclusion are understood, embraced and celebrated. 

A special thanks to Chef Gregg Brackman, owner of the G Bar and Little G Bar in Swampscott, MA for hosting a pre-party livestream cooking class via the Chefsfeed by Tastemade platform.

Enormous gratitude to Paul Taylor Dance Studios and to the following artistic unions: SAG-AFTRA (New Media Agreement); ASCAP – The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers; BMI – Broadcast Music Inc. 

To learn more about Positive Exposure, please visit www.positiveexposure.org Want to visit? Positive Exposure is scheduling “in-person” appointments. To schedule a visit, please email liz@positiveexposure.org  

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