Interact, a nationwide creative art initiative that challenges perceptions of disability, has a strong base in the New Orleans area.

Formed in Minnesota 18 years ago, Interact has opened doors for artists with disabilities to perform and exhibit before audiences who have been eager to experience their work. Artists from different mediums, such as acting and dance, painting and sculpture, share their expertise helping people with disabilities and special needs to experience arts as a life choice and realize that it can be important in their lives. Interact is multicultural and intergenerational and embraces the entire spectrum of disability issues and labels.

The Arc of Greater New Orleans has been participating in Interact for several years. Valerie St. Amant, associate director of the Arc’s individual options program, was the driving force behind the formation of InterACT NOLA (note the New Orleans emphasis on “ACT”) as an innovative option for the program participants. Participants rehearse, help with the scenery and perform.

This year’s musical show is “The Nutria Blues.” Sites and dates have not been announced.

To help finance this program, a really fun effort has evolved. “Bright and Tight 2-Night: A Glowing Affair to Benefit InterACT NOLA” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at Southport Hall, 200 Monticello Ave., New Orleans. Entertainers will be Johnny J and The Hitmen, Social Set, Margie Perez and Her Funky Boy Band, the Muff-A-Lottas Dance Troupe, and the InterACT NOLA troupe.

Live art by Skip NOLA and Roger Irion will be raffled, and MC Tracheotomy will keep the evening moving along with the silent auction and parade of prizes.

Tickets are $20 per person and include a light dinner plus one beer ticket. A cash bar is available. Neon attire is suggested.

Recognizing that individuals with intellectual disabilities are creative, talented and have personal stories to tell, InterAct NOLA is “changing perceptions through art and expression.”

Arc serves individuals in Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson parishes and will soon have a presence on the north shore in St. Tammany Parish.

For ticket purchase and information, contact St. Amant at (504) 897-0134 or Kim Habisritinger at (504) 837-5105.

SELF-DIRECTION FORUM: The Metropolitan Human Services District and Families Helping Families of Southeast Louisiana will host a quarterly self-direction forum from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at the New Orleans Public Library, 4300 S. Broad St. Families interested in the self-direction option will get answers to questions on topics such as selection of staff support members and parental involvement in the planning process. To register, contact Dominique Gainez at (504) 620-2303 or The deadline for registration is July 25.

Jane Pic Adams writes about issues of interest to people with disabilities and their families. Contact her at