Welcome to Artists in Transition

Joel's post-surgical halo (January, 2008)
Hi. What happens when an illness or accident affects your ability to create/perform art, music, dance, theater, film or any other art form for which you were trained. I didn't put a question mark at the end of that sentence, for it's really a rhetorical question. That's what's happened to me, so with the generous support of an ART Outreach Grant managed by The Philanthropic Initiative in Boston I created Artists in Transition to explore the issues that sometimes partner artistry with infirmity. The goal is not to provide answers, but to assist visual/performing artists like us in asking the right questions.

For me, a series of surgeries to negate the effects of rare spinal tumors (benign, but unkind) resulted in nerve damage in my hands that pretty much left them without feeling or function when my last surgery was completed in late 2007 (and my background's in Visual Arts. Bummer!). That was then, though, and this is now. Extensive physical and occupational therapy and the support of loving family, friends and colleagues have enabled me to function very well and what doesn't function well, works well enough. That's great for everyday activities, and I consider myself blessed (my neurosurgeon calls me the "Poster Boy for Neurosurgery" and gave a paper on my case at a medical conference in Chicago. Believe me, you do not want to have a case curious enough to gain that kind of notoriety), but I cannot yet ( perhaps never) create art with the skill I once did (there are artist friends who claim that I never really did create art with much skill and now at least, I have an excuse).

Fortunately, I did not have to rely on my art-making ability to make a living and this June I retired after nearly thirty years as the Coordinator of the Arts, K-12 for the Danbury, CT school district.

But still, what happens to us as visual and performing artists when our artistry is disrupted by disability. We are in the process of planning an inaugural conference for Spring, 2010 in Danbury, Connecticut, where we'll gather folks from the medical, therapeutic, arts, advocacy and educational fields to explore the issues that affect, frustrate, scare and perhaps may eventually inspire us as we become Artists in Transition.

Please contact me either through this blog/website or at my e-mail address, artistsintransition@yahoo.com. I won't guarantee you answers, but let's have fun (ya gotta have fun) kicking around those questions, and perhaps learn something in the process.

Be well.
Joel Levitt


  1. I read these words and they ring so true...
    it is definitely the inspiration I need right now.
    I am so impressed and excited for your upcoming conference-I will be there with bells on!

    p.s. I love the logo and the halo :)

  2. Your words had all the warmth and humor that you exuded over 40 years ago, when we first met, so I know that accidents and illnesses may harm the body while leaving the spirit unscathed. Perhaps your friends were right; it's possible you were never a great artist, I wouldn't know. But I do know you were a great teacher and friend. I wish you all the best with Artists in Transition and with the upcoming conference. - Michael Weingarten