Laura Wertheim Joseph, gallery director, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts

Laura Wertheim Joseph is leading efforts to expand the market for the artwork of artists with disabilities in the newly created role of gallery director at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, a St. Paul-based nonprofit.

A new e-commerce platform, now under development, will launch this spring to raise the profile of Interact's 70-plus professional artists and offer their artwork for sale, Joseph said. Interact describes itself as "the oldest organization in the country challenging what the so-called 'disabled' can do in the arts."

"Fifty percent goes direct to the artists and 50 percent goes to supplies and materials," Joseph said.

Joseph also is working to create partnerships for Interact artists to display and sell their work in art venues as well as in commercial, office and other spaces.

"Merchandising the work is an interesting thing," Joseph said. "All of our artists have a very distinct aesthetic and it could be really fun in different kinds of settings."

Joseph has been an independent curator, arts organizer and educator for organizations including the Weisman Art Museum, the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and the Plains Art Museum in Fargo.

Joseph has a master's degree and a doctorate in art history from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in arts and cultural management from St. Mary's University of Minnesota. Funding for her position at Interact is from the Minnesota Department of Human Services' Innovative Solutions for People with Disabilities Initiative.

Q: What appealed to you about this opportunity?

A: The values and the community are two of the most amazing things about the place. My focus as a curator has been to call into question thinking that devalues or marginalizes people [who are] invisible and to give voice to undervalued voices of wisdom. Interact has this amazing set of values; one of them is radical inclusion. There's an incredible community here that's rallied around appreciation and respect for art-making as a means of communication and a joyful activity.

Q: What are your responsibilities as gallery director?

A: I'm an advocate for the visual artists in the program. My role is to advance recognition and support for the artists in the local community and nationally and internationally. The hope is I can help build more[connections] between Interact and the broader artistic community.

Q: What's your approach to marketing the artists' work?

A: Telling the story, explaining to people why the work is important. Often the story around the work is an important component of selling it and helping people recognize the value beyond the aesthetic value. … My formal academic background has given me an ability to help situate living artists' work within a broader context.

TODD NELSON