CCI Accessibility Corner: Featured Artist "The Wayfaring Band"

Accessibility Corner Featured Artist: The Wayfaring Band

Written by Elise Collins

The Wayfaring Band is not a rock and roll band, but a group of travelers. If you enjoy adventure, travel, art, and camaraderie, look no further than The Wayfaring Band! 

Bridget Heddens is in the foreground, wearing black and facing away from the camera. She has her left hand on the back of her head and her right arm extended. In the background, an image is projected of a person with a Wayfairing Band t-shirt and a hat. He has his hand on his head and is looking up to the sky.

What does the Wayfaring Band do?

This Denver-based nonprofit creates road trips and adventure travel for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). They also offer a social leadership program for adults without disabilities who are interested in inclusion and diversity. And finally, they offer an artist-in-residency program that highlights innovations in social storytelling.

The Wayfaring Band adventures all over the world with 8-10 tours each year. They host trips around Colorado, the United States, and the world. On each trip, eight travelers with disabilities explore and participate in interesting conversations while also practicing independent living skills. Two leadership fellows and one artist-in-residence participate in a daily curriculum that addresses inclusion, accessibility, ableism, anti-racism, mutual aid, and more. Their five trained staff members (“roadies”) create a safe space for everyone to explore and grow. After the tour, the artist creates their "ode" to their adventure.

What is the Wayfaring Band Artist in Residency Program?

Each tour has one artist in residence who is charged with creating an “ode” to the adventure. Their completed piece helps the participants remember what the entire tour felt like or a specific part of the trip.

Odes can take many different forms. Bridget Heddens worked with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and Colorado Ballet before joining The Wayfaring Band. She created a beautiful live piece for the 2019 Vancouver Tour. She worked with band members and roadies to combine film, poetry, and movement. (See Bridget's performance here.) She now runs an inclusive dance company in Denver called Beam+.


Andy Thomas and Nick Abowitz are hanging out in lounge chairs on the deck of a cruise ship.

Andy Thomas celebrated a 2019 Caribbean cruise tour by writing an original song. Two of the band members, Nik Abowitz and Collin Wilson sang with him for the final recording. (Check out Andy, Nik,and Collin’s song here!) Check out the other artist odes featured on their website!

Previous artists in residence have included dancers, musicians, Broadway performers, visual artists, poets, songwriters, playwrights, tattoo artists (see Justin Wild below)  and more. Basically, if you identify as an artist, reach out to them about this opportunity! Check out their video on the Artist Residency program here!

Sharing this work with the larger world also  helps showcase The Wayfaring Band’s important work. Jen GaNun, the Programs & Partnerships Manager, said,

"We believe that artists are on the forefront of conversations for change. We know that artists communicate in a creative and fun way. People may want to get involved in this conversation of anti-ableism more because it was shared through the experience of an artist.”

Why tour with The Wayfaring Band?

Touring with the Wayfaring Band is a great way to get involved. Travelers learn more about accessibility and making changes for yourself and your community. People come away from these adventures with lifelong friendships

One of the things that can hold folx back from reaching out to travel with the band is that they think they don’t have enough experience or don’t belong in this community.They truly meet everybody where they currently are. The Wayfaring Band is a diverse community of people that work with mutual aid and support each other.

Alt text: Justin Wild (a tattoo artist who joined the tour) and Jake Blackgoat are flexing their arm muscles to show off their tattoos. Justin has a full sleeve of tattoos and Jake has a tattoo of a cow skull on his upper bicep.

Wayfaring Band and Social Change

The Wayfaring Band is both a social service and a social change agency. Jen GaNun said that,

“We are a service in the way that we offer community, friendship, and travel in a safe and supportive way for friends who experience I/DD. We consider ourselves a social change agency - while we are traveling we are working with a curriculum (intentional conversations about dismantling oppression through the lens of disability. Our neurotypical friends are committed to participating in these conversations. Our leadership fellows, artists, band members, and roadies talk about the systems that we live in on a regular basis and how we can break down these systems together.

Intersectionality is also a big piece of our curriculum and our conversations about oppression. We meet people where they are and everyone’s experience is valued. A lot of our friends want to share their experiences with their multiple identities.We talk about it because it is essential to understanding their experience and the systems that we are living in.”

Any recommendations for people interested in continuing accessibility and anti-ableism conversations?

There are lots of great leaders, organizations, and individuals who are sharing content around this. They feature people in the community that are doing this work in their curriculum handbook. To learn more, check out Open Future Learning, Atlantis Community Inc, and the Disability Justice Primer from Skin, Tooth, and Bone.

How else can people get involved?

  • Join a tour! Any adult can join The Wayfaring Band on tour! Their trips are open to adults who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), as well as caregivers, students, teachers, professionals, activists, retirees, and interested community members.
  • Apply to be an artist in residence
    • Artist-In-Residence FAQs
    • At present, their artist-in-residence program is accepting rolling applications. If you’d like to apply, feel free to contact us.
  • Follow the Wayfaring Band on social media to see what they are doing on tour:
  • Listen to Everybody In - The Wayfaring Band’s podcast
  • Learn more about their in-person and virtual programs!
  • Donate to keep the band on the road!
  • Holler at them via email or give them a call. They’re here and ready to meet new friends.

The Wayfaring Band is an adventure where everyone belongs. Come join the adventure!

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