Ongoing event benefits founder of Kreamy ’Lectric Santa, Priya Ray
Ideally, the first few sentences of an article should encapsulate, to the extent that it is possible, what the article is specifically about.That’s why, despite having had plenty of time to write this, it is the eleventh hour and here I still sit. What the hell is this article about? Is it about an artist? A band? A benefit? The DIY ethic? Role (and plight) of the disabled in the arts? Yes, it’s about all those things and it’s a lot of ground to cover in a short space.
Priya Ray, one of the most instantly likable people I’ve spoken with in a while, is an artist and a founding member of the band Kreamy ’Lectric Santa, an experimental, progressive, punk, avant-garde group (I would add fascinating and compelling to the list of descriptors) that has been performing for 26 years.
In 1999, Priya suffered a severe spinal injury that has left her wheelchair-bound ever since. For two-and-a-half years she struggled to adapt to living as a permanently disabled person, but through it all she never lost sight of two things. She was an artist and a musician and she was going to carry on her work as both, regardless of the new difficulties she would face.
Priya, her partner, and her band had always been a part of the DIY community, a collective of self reliance and anti-consumerism where it’s better to make your own stickers and T-shirts rather than buy them. The indie-music scene today wouldn’t exist at all were it not for the DIY movement of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
It also tends to be a socially conscious crowd, but it wasn’t until Priya’s accident that she realized that although the community had addressed sexism, racism and sexuality, people with disabilities had been largely overlooked.
Bolstered by her determination to continue as an artist and musician and educated by her new experiences as a disabled person, Priya decided that she herself had a role to play in raising awareness of their needs as a performer AND a spectator.
“…I’ve come across venues where the performance area was up a huge flight of stairs or in a basement where I couldn’t go. So through me performing in my band I force people to think about what the needs for people with disabilities are. Can they get in? Is there an accessible bathroom for them to use? How will they be able to watch the band? All things people don’t think about when they are able bodied.”
With the support of her many fans, admirers and fellow artists and musicians, Priya has managed to acquire a van with a wheelchair lift, essential to continuing her work. Unfortunately, the van requires some further modification and equipment in order to allow Priya to drive it herself, thereby giving her the highest degree of independence and self-reliance.
In order to raise the additional funds, Priya’s friend and long-time supporter of independent music, Amy Mayfield, of Mayfield’s AKNF record store, is sponsoring an ongoing gallery of art donated by musicians and artists from across the country. The gallery hanging (at the record store) began on Halloween and will continue throughout the rest of the year.
Additionally, on “Black Friday” (Nov. 27) and throughout Black Friday weekend, Mayfield’s AKNF will be featuring live music and a host of other events, including a presentation by Priya of her book, “Completely Tilted Back,” a photo journal of her life on the road as a disabled performer.
The current list of artistic and musical contributors to the event can be found at Mayfield AKNF’s Facebook page. Musicians and artists interested in participating should contact Amy either through the page or at the record store at 199 River St.
One hundred percent of all proceeds from the art (available through Dec. 31) and Black Friday Music Weekend (the third anniversary of the record store) will go to Priya to help finish modifications to her van.
“Being able to drive this van will increase my independence greatly. It will allow me the freedom to do everything I want to do and more. Giving a disabled person another level of independence is allowing them to keep up with the rest of the world. Getting this van will not only help me be able to tour but I will also be able to work and raise more disability awareness through my music and art. Besides All Killers No Fillers, I’m so thankful to all the artists donating their art to help me get mobile. Thank you!”
Photo by Jennifer Shagawat