CHICAGO — A Chicago arts organization is expanding an initiative to support and promote artists who are deaf and disabled.

“I call myself a hybrid artist and a multi-artist because I bring a lot of different elements to my work,” artist Tsehaye Hebert said.

Hebert’s work is committed to inclusivity.

“I had an illness-related disability and ended up being hospitalized for 6 months in isolation. I had a tracheotomy, I could not talk and I was paralyzed and I thought I’ll never work again,” Hebert said.

Hebert did return to work after being in a wheelchair for approximately a year. In 2020, she was named a Bodies of Work Fellow through the Chicago non-profit 3Arts.

“The idea is to elevate deaf and disabled artists, raise the dialogue around disability culture and disability aesthetics and we hope to be a changemaker in the field so that when you go to the theater and a music venue, the fullness of the human experience is being reflected on the stage,” 3Arts executive director Esther Grimm said.

Hebert is one of four artists added to the 3Arts Disability Culture Leadership Initiative that launched in 2021.

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“We wanted to create a professional development pipeline so that people who are disabled, who are interested in making their way in the arts and having their careers in the arts could actually have a one-stop resource hub site where colleagues could find them and hire them, that’s our ultimate hope,” Grimm said.

Hebert is now finishing up the script on her latest project.

“A work that’s titled loosely – Everything I need to know about disability I learned being Black – because the intersection of the two became so prominent for me in how barriers have to be taken down and be dismantled in order for me to do what I do,” Hebert said.