Aspire and Harris Theater Collaborate on a Sensory-Friendly Performance

Renewing a partnership that was born in 2018, Aspire teamed up with Harris Theater for Music & Dance to create an inclusive performance by incorporating sensory-friendly elements into the entire experience. 

“Considering the sensory elements of an environment is a critical aspect of creating a welcoming space. With intentional planning, sensory-friendly experiences create opportunities for belonging and send the message that all people have the right to enjoy cultural experiences,” said Clare Killy, Vice President of Digital Experiences at Aspire. “We’ve been honored to team up with Harris Theater for several years now to support their team in really maximizing inclusive theater experiences for all guests.”  

This year, Clare and her team provided consultation and guidance to Harris Theater as materials and resources were being developed for the inclusive performance. Leading up to the event, Aspire also hosted a virtual training on sensory-friendly experiences for Harris Theater’s guest-facing staff.

“The sensory and inclusion training and impact that Aspire Chicago has on our Harris Theater front of house team is so critical to the work that we do with Sensory Friendly Family Series programming—and really, for all of our programming,” said Hillary Pearson, Director of Operations + Access Initiatives at Harris Theater. “As an organization whose mission is to connect diverse audiences with our artists, we are committed to creating options for our patrons, artists, and team members to experience programming in the way that is most meaningful for them. Aspire’s guidance helps us to create and support those options and fosters a knowledge base to enable us to keep our perspectives and team open to curating an inclusive environment for all our guests.”

The performance provided a fantastic opportunity for guests to enjoy a truly inclusive community experience and the theater welcomed many guests, including a group of Aspire teammates and participants from our Life on My Own (LoMO) program who attended the event together.  

“Inclusive events are important because they remove the social and physical barriers that may inhibit some attendees from enjoying the event,” mentioned Eli Ruplinger, Lead Life Consultant/QIDP – Life on My Own at Aspire. “The Harris Theater performance was a great example of an organization providing an excellent show, while creating an environment where nobody felt left out.” 

Guests were encouraged to visit Aspire’s informational table throughout the event where our team members talked to attendees about our mission of inclusion and the importance of sensory-friendly environments. During the performance, Aspire teammates staffed a ‘quiet room’ and Aspire CoffeeWorks coffee was brewed at the concession stands.  

Harris Theater is an incredible community partner to Aspire in so many ways. Together, we are creating possibilities for people of all abilities and smashing barriers that limit our communities. To learn more about Harris Theater, visit harristheaterchicago.org and to learn more about Aspire Inclusive Solutions, contact Clare Killy at ckilly@aspirechicago.com

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