Beyond Access in Australia

Beyond Access: the creative case for inclusive arts practice

At Unlimited, we are interested in looking beyond the boundaries of the UK for good practice, resources and opportunities, and recently our attention has been captured by Australia…

 Arts Access Victoria is dedicated to building an inclusive arts sector, free from barriers, where people with a disability can participate on an equal basis. Central to this mission is building the creative case for inclusion of disabled people (or as they say in Australia, people with disability) in cultural life and this has led to a research project delivered in partnership with the University of Melbourne – Beyond Access, the creative case for inclusive arts practice.

In recent years, Victoria has emerged as a national leader in inclusive arts practice due to the work of disability arts companies like Arts Access Victoria, Arts Project Australia, Rawcus and Back to Back Theatre. Their examination of the Victoria scene was therefore a logical starting point for this research. They recognised that they couldn’t progress the cultural aspirations of people with a disability until the wider community collectively understands and values the work of disabled artists and that record keeping and academic involvement had been poor – meaning there are parallels with the development in the UK of NDACA and also Unlimited’s own interest in developing academic links: Critical Thinking – critiquing disabled artists

The Beyond Access research investigated how disabled artists are extending and redefining contemporary arts practice in exciting and innovative ways – very much in line with the UK’s Creative Case thinking and involved a review of the literature and methodology of inclusive arts practice in Australia, US and the UK, a symposium and the production of a series of video case studies of leading Victorian arts companies and practitioners in the area of disability arts practice, such as Weave Movement Theatre, Rawcus, Jane Trengove, visual artist and the Write-ability Program for Writers with a Disability (blogger Carly Findlay and Kate Larsen, Director Writers Victoria).

They are now linking with the University of Sydney and Goldsmith’s College, University of London for a new project Rethinking Disability Arts in Australia: Mapping the Last Avant-garde to provide the first comprehensive mapping of the disability arts landscape in Australia.

Unlimited is linking up directly with Australia this autumn. As well as taking some work out to Adelaide Film Festival, we’ve teamed up with the Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT), Access2Arts (AUS) and Watershed (UK), for Unfixed, a creative research residency that is taking place in Australia later this year and are currently looking for 10 artists to take part – 5 from Australia and 5 from the UK.

Unfixed is a creative investigation into the characterisation of bodies as ‘disabled’ and ‘abled’. The residency’s focus on creative, collaborative research means that participating artists will not be expected to create new work during the residency but will need a willingness to collaborate and an interest in boundary pushing!

The residency is this autumn in Adelaide (October 26th to 6th November) and more information (including on how to apply) can be found at www.anat.org.au/unfixed . The deadline for applications from the UK is 8.30am BST, Friday 7 August 2015.

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