Ways of Seeing Art

Exploring the links between Art and Audio Description...


Six months ago, Shape took part in Tate Exchange with a programme featuring a series of art workshops, a showcase of work by the artists shortlisted for Shape's 2017 Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, and a Symposium exploring the links between audio description and art. 

To accompany this programme we created a booklet highlighting the barriers disabled people face in the arts, with an emphasis on blind and visually impaired people, and to encourage arts organisations to experiment with their audio description offer (as well as other forms of access) so that a richer, more creative experience is provided for the public.

You can access a free digital version of the booklet at www.shapearts.org.uk/news/ways-of-seeing-art-booklet 

To purchase a physical copy, please email marketing@shapearts.org.uk

Collective Influence

Submissions are open for the 2018 Shape Open group exhibition!


Disabled and non-disabled artists are invited to submit work for our 2018 Shape Open, “Collective Influence” - the UK's leading disability-led group exhibition - to be held at The Art Pavilion, Mile End, London from Thursday 22 March until Thursday 5 April 2018.

Held in high-profile, artist-led spaces, the Open provides an exciting opportunity for disabled and non-disabled artists to show disability-led work and discuss views and ideas about issues and topics which are often sidelined within artistic debate. This year's theme is “Collective Influence”: what influences you? How does influence go further than inspiration?

Submissions deadline: 12 noon, Monday 16th October.

To submit work for the Open or for more information, please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/news/open-2018-submissions

Public call out to artists!

Wanted for exhibition: DOLLS...


Not just a child's toy, the doll has been part of civilization since as far back as 2000 BC. The Paddle Doll, pictured below, is thought to be one of the oldest type of doll.

Every civilisation has their own evolution and history of doll making. Materials such as corn, bone, clay, cotton, wood and much more have all been used to make dolls. They've acted as fertility charms, company in the afterlife and as important symbols during religious ceremonies. 

Project Ability is looking for artists to explore the idea of the doll for an exhibition in January 2018.

Russian Nesting dolls, (the matryoshkas) have been around since 1890 and have become much loved by all cultures. More recently of course are plastic and rubber dolls like the infamous Barbie and action figurines such as GI Joe and Marvel.

We are looking for artists who are already working with this idea, or artists who would like to try something new. As usual, we are hoping for extremely creative and unusual works of art. We want to celebrate the many charms and eccentricities of the doll. 

Important info & dates: 

Where: Project Ability, Trongate 103, Glasgow

When: 20th January until 24th February 2018

Deadlines: Email submission only: on or before 3rd November 2017.

Please include: title, description of the piece, size, materials and an artist's price. If exhibited, we will add 40% onto your artist's price. You may choose for the work not to be for sale.

Notification of successful artworks: by 17th November.

Delivery of work: on or before 8 December (artist responsible for all carriage costs)

Other info: Artwork must be ready for display with instructions if needed

Artists can submit up to three artworks & up to three images per artwork

Please email questions & submissions to: exhibtions@project-ability.co.uk 

Blast! Festival

Artist and curatorial opportunities...


Blast! Festival - curatorial and artist commissions. An exciting opportunity for six curators and six artists from the West Midlands.

Multistory is inviting early / mid career curators and artists to apply for one of 12 opportunities to create new work / exhibitions for our Blast! Festival in 2019.

Curators' Opportunity:
Curators are invited to apply for one of six commissions to work within one of the six towns of Sandwell, focusing on communities and re-imaging and re-presenting work from the Multistory photographic collection. We are interested in receiving applications that present creative approaches to animating our collection, engaging with communities and presenting an exhibition / event / performance that sits within the Blast Festival in 2019. This opportunity is open to independent curators, artists or collectives based in the West Midlands.

Artists' Opportunity:
Artists are invited to apply for one of six commissions to develop new work for the Blast! Festival in 2019. Artists will be required to work within one of the six towns of Sandwell, focusing on, and collaborating with, communities identified by Multistory. This opportunity is available to artists working within photography, moving image, digital media and sound. We are open to applications from independent artists or collaborations.

Successful applicants for each opportunity will receive a budget of £5K (inc VAT) for fee, delivery, materials and production of the work (additional budget is available to support the installation of the work); each curator / artist will also be supported by mentoring and professional development, with six master classes / artists talks by professional artists forming part of the programme of support.

Blast! is an ambitious two-year project that will develop, showcase and celebrate exceptional art produced in the borough of Sandwell. Focusing on photography, moving image, digital media and sound, Blast! will see six flagship weekenders of international and breakthrough artist commissions produced with communities and businesses in each of Sandwell's six distinctive towns, culminating in a festival finale on the streets of West Bromwich in June 2019.

The deadline for receipt of applications is 6pm on Friday 22nd September 2017.

Caron Wright
Company Manager

Direct Dial: 0121 569 2883
Mobile: 07875 704973


The Incorrigibles

Perspectives on Disability Visual Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries.


In 2015, DASH was awarded funding by Arts Council England and in partnership with mac Birmingham, to create a book, an encyclopaedia if you will, of the most pertinent and esteemed disabled artists in the UK. It published in 2016, sharing it's birthdate with the 40th anniversary of Shape Arts. As a trustee at DASH and as an emerging disabled artist, the development of this book was of interest to me.

The definition of the term 'incorrigible' is boldly stated at the beginning; "(of a person or their behaviour) not to be changed or reformed." This definition acts as a necessary introduction to the book.

Adrian Plant and Tanya Raabe-Webber, two artists who identify as disabled, discuss just that. The decision to self-identify and the impact that has can be both problematic and beneficial on an artist's work, particularly in the mainstream art world. They introduce the motive of the book being both an enlightening tool and necessary celebration, against a place where disability arts is still largely discredited. They explain how Cultivate, a bespoke mentoring project for disabled visual artists, and acted as a foundation talking point and catalyst in the creation of this book. Most of the artist's featured in the book were part of such groups, and so it rings throughout the book as important reference points.

Craig Ashley's short essay discusses how the book came to fruition from the symposium Awkward Bastards. There is a clear reaction from the notable lack of presence from such a book and the disability arts lack of recognition in the mainstream arts world is frustrating. He gives a detailed account of political views:

"We felt there was a question around legitimacy that also needed to be framed as part of the conversation, to acknowledge the historical context of exclusion and subsequent civil rights action in Britain during the post-war period."

He touches on the issue around the legitimacy of the mainstream arts world, and discusses the positive movement that can be taken from the symposium, notably that the Arts Council cited diversity to be 'a key issue in relation to the programming and audiences, leadership and workforce of all our funded organisations.' from 2014. He references the Black Arts Movement as a means to illustrate a similar need for a revolution to push forward the Disability Arts Movement. Ashley gives an informative, honest yet optimistic hope for change, in which Awkward Bastards clearly encapsulated.

Tony Heaton begins his own essay by quoting Bill Bryson on the surprising figures of British Inventions and how that includes disability arts, as a unique springboard to an informative view of the Social Model of Disability. He gives a historical account of how the politics of disability has challenged local authorities, given access to the arts and built positive relationships that have led to the current form of disability arts.

The Incorrigibles are 14 selected visual artists discussing their practice. They were asked 6 questions that aimed to provide "inspiration and advice to the readers of this book" in which it most definitely delivers.

The sorts of questions posed were not in anyway assuming, and instead scoped an interesting and colourful portrait of them as individuals, as artists, and as disabled people, along with the difficult question around self-identifying as a disabled artist. The use of questions very much dictated their answers;

"What/who inspired you to want to become an artist"

"What were the main personal challenges you faced during your early career as an artist and what strategies did you develop?"

"As an established/respected artist can you reflect on your relationship to the so called 'mainstream' museum and art worlds?"

"In what ways has the existence of the 'Disability Art movement' helped or hindered your career development?"

"Tanya Raabe-Webber identified herself to be a disabled artist, borne out of the Disability Arts movement. How do you choose to define yourself as an artist and why?"

"What advice would you consider most vital to give an emerging Disabled Artist and why?"

Although many of the artists simply feel their destiny was to always be an artist, or that their education nurtured them into becoming an artist, many of the artists felt it grew from a form of rebellion against mainstream views imposed on them during their youth, which comes as no surprise to a disabled artist. This notion spurred self-led teachings of their chosen art form; in fact, disability led many of them to art. As David Hevey says, "Just when it couldn't get any more weird; it did: I got epilepsy. This was both the final and terrible end, and the enlightening beginning of the rest of my life."

Jon Adams is an esteemed artist specialising in abstract digital illustrations.  When asked about identifying as a disabled art maker, he answers, "I am artist first and yes, I'm an autistic person".

Perhaps this view of self-identity aids the positive relationship he has with the arts sector in which he works.

"I have actively been chosen for projects because of my Autism/Asperger's... If you want to see work that is different, commission people to think differently, but also think differently about the way you commission and treat them...to be honest I've never registered that there is anything other than mainstream; I don't like using the word mainstream as it implies segregation... The work should speak for itself."

This I think is agreed from most art makers whether disabled or not, Bobby Baker makes the equally important point that rather her disability, she feared of being ousted at St Martins for being simply being a woman and not conforming to housewife ideals.

Juan delGado also echoes this point of view.  Highlighting the ever-growing how the digital landscape gave him and other independent filmmakers the platform for real artistic success on a mainstream stage.

One of the highlights of the book is the contribution from Sue Austin. Sue Austin is a wheelchair user who uses herself as the subject in her work. Her work encapsulates the term 'disability arts', as her chosen images from 'Creating the Spectacle!' depict her 'Flying Free' through a coral reef in her wheelchair. This body of work, as she explains, I personally was delighted to see her included in this book. I wrote my dissertation on the disabling images the media portrays, I found her work to be the most notably? against the argument in my research.  I found myself nodding in agreement when she states, "I feel a sense of recognition and shared identity with Disability Arts that acknowledges the complex realities of the disability experience."

These are just a few accounts of the importance of disability arts and the liberation of disability arts. "Disability Arts exists and I for one feel better and stronger in knowing this."

Statements like this by Heaton, are peppered throughout the book, shouting loud and proud about disability arts, and thereby creating a medium to talk openly about the history of disability arts, it's current position in difficult times, and encourages discussion and optimism for it's future.

The Incorrigibles offers viewpoints around political movements, and erased rich history, often overlooked by mainstream arts. It acts an empowering tool that any artist should be proud to have on their bookshelf to fully understand the complexities of an important genre of art.

Altered Landscapes

An exploration of Juan delGado's exhibition...


The exhibition starts outside the door, with a welcome sign that states how the art space is intentionally darkened, and kindly signposts the audience to accessible alternatives if needed. On entering the exhibition, I find myself submerged in darkness, invited in by a dim ambient light bulb to 1 of 3 landscape images. Background noise echoes through the exhibition space, creating an ambiguous and atmospheric tone. The text on the first wall accurately describes what the exhibition entails, in addition to this there is a longer printed supplement, an 'easy read' guide around the exhibition particularly useful to those with language difficulties, and an enlarged text. These extra steps taken to ensure accessibility provide an inclusive framework, creating a well thought-out welcome to all. The offer of additional information bodes well for everyone, as the photographs document purposefully dim-lit landscapes that insist on being seen up close with difficulty.

The first image shows a discoloured, yellow-tinged industrial terrain. The sense of darkness it is accompanied by, with only a light bulb to draw light from, heightens a sense of struggle and allows one to imagine how it might be like for someone to walk through these landscapes at night. The second image offers a softer version of abandonment; a yellow sweater amongst a straw field. The contrast between man made and natural elements feels more commonplace, but proposes questions of whom it belongs to as the notion of disbandment is takes hold. The final image conjures a grey landscape of bare trees, evergreens and electric pylons amongst a fog. This image leaves me thinking it could be anywhere in the world, but it smacks of the UK.

Moving into the film space, there is a low hanging light fitting installation, with brightly coloured visuals of somebodies point of view, walking through various landscapes. Leaves; grass; fields; pavements provides a sense of movement and urgency. This installation is placed directly adjacent to the film, leading us to view.

The film begins by overlooking coloured city lights, a city unknown, with stars reflected just as brightly in the sky.  It conjures up the image of his home, a place he needs to leave. The breathing of the narrator, the sounds of his environment and his internal thoughts spoken out loud make this film ever more real and immersive.  

"They look the same, yet somehow different. The lights, the colours, the shapes."

The two mediums are brought together with subtitled and spoken word, lending a painfully real insight into the thought process of war-led heartbreak.

"I need a response. I am in a world of silence. But I must find you. I need a sign. Those vast vessels which once carried our dreams, they are all empty now."

His voice trembles; he becomes upset and unclear to make out, leading us to engage with the text. He is reasoning with someone, ultimately saying his goodbyes. As black and white features of his city move to shots of traffic at night, it becomes apparent he is fleeing.

"The war has changed everything, it comes with a price. I'm changing, I'm becoming without you, this sickness is taking me over… I must leave, Habibi."

Bright black and white images emerge, depicting a starker, but still bleak, reality that is all too reminiscent of the UK and Europe. Natural images of mountains, sea, rivers and grass appear, and then traffic appears. This shows another form of uncertainty; a cold, harsh viewpoint takes hold. The blend of grey scenes of discarded junk, dumping grounds and bare trees conjure up a metaphor for a new future in an unknown place. His breathing turns to heavy panting as he crosses grass and fields, along with several discarded items on his way towards a dumping ground, a sight that feels all too familiar still. Emptiness and endless grey images give a very familiar perspective. There is something heavily weighted here. Yet this isn't where the eeriness lies, rather it's uncertainty that festers. There is imagery of plastic in trees in the wind, resonant of paper fortunes tied to Japanese 'O-mikuji' trees.

As the film draws to an end we are faced with the view of barbed wire on a motorway, as the sounds of seagulls and wind merges in with the sounds of passing cars.

DelGado's film and exhibition offers a deeply personal account and heartfelt insight of what it is like to flee your home country amidst a war in search of an alternative. Despite a clear attachment to his home and evident regret, Habibi makes the brave decision to leave this country risking he may never see his loved ones or home again. DelGado's installation is a fully engaging experience, inviting his audience to witness an authentic account of an endangered individual affected directly by war. 

Job Opportunities

Available with Candoco Dance Company...


Candoco is privileged to have been awarded an annual increase in investment by Arts Council England as part of our 2018-22 funding as a National Portfolio Organisation.

This will allow the company to contribute further to the Creative Case for Diversity and develop progression routes for disabled dancers with a comprehensive programme of training and artistic development. 

As such as we are currently recruiting for an Assistant Producer (Learning) and an Administrator.

Full details on both roles can be found via: http://candoco.co.uk/about-us/vacancies 

Artist's Micro-commissions

Exploring the culture and heritage of market gardening...


For the Love of Lettuce.

Three micro-commissions for artists at any stage of their careers (including emerging artists) for Melbourne Festival in South Derbyshire, to be unveiled, showcased or premiered over the weekend of Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September 2017.

Historically, Melbourne is well known for its market gardening heritage. These market gardens, which define the shape and feel of the village were (and still are) largely family businesses - and there are still three remaining in Melbourne.

As part of a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, Melbourne Festival, working with People Express and Talking Birds, are offering three small commissions for artists to make new pieces of work in any medium inspired by Melbourne's market gardening heritage and the oral history collected as part of the project so far. Work can be shown outdoor at one or more chosen site/s along the arts trail in the village setting or within a local venue.

For further informariton on this opportunity, please see the PDF linked below.

Exciting news!

DASH is very pleased to make the following announcement...


DASH is delighted to announce Arts Council England funding for 2018 – 2022.

DASH's application for additional investment was supported, which means that we can expand our partnership work commissioning Disabled artists and create a new Disabled children and young people programme. 

How can we do this with just three part time staff? The increased investment means that we will be able to expand our team with an Engagement and Learning Manager and a Marketing & Communications Manager.

The Board and staff would like to say a HUGE thank you to Arts Council England, the organisation and the staff team for all your support over the years. 

And of course a HUGE thank you to all our supporters, from so many arts, cultural and media and third sector organisations, all the individuals, artists, freelancers, participants and funders, who have made it possible to continue our work. 

We have BIG plans over the next four years, so make sure you watch this space for the latest projects and news. Did I mention DASH will be 20 years old in 2021? – Time for a celebration?

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: "Creative talent is everywhere, but opportunities are not, which is why we're thrilled to be increasing our investment in DASH over the next four years. It'll be great to see them continue to support disabled visual artists, as well as using our funding to create a new programme for disabled children and young people to get involved with art and culture."

Read the full press announcement by downloading the PDF below.

Access Dance Worker

Deaf street dancer Billy Read requires an Access Dance Worker for his new show!


Please circulate this exciting opportunity for someone who wants to be involved in the making of an exciting new dance show funded by Unlimited International.

Access Dance Worker:

Deaf street dancer Billy Read requires an Access Dance Worker for his new show, 'Somebody's Watching Me'. You will support the transformation of Billy Read's narrative concept into dance and international sign language during his  "Research and Development"  period based at mac, Birmingham; funded by Unlimited International R & D award.

Your role: you will support Deaf Dancer Billy Read to take notes of all the choreography, takes notes of artistic meetings, video record key moments of dance.

We expect interested applicants to have:

  • Basic knowledge of British Sign Language 
  • Knowledge and understanding of Dance
  • Ability to provide summaries of artistic meetings

You should be available to work during Research and Development Period.

20th - 23rd June 2017 - 11th - 14th July 2017 and 2nd - 6th September 2017.

£720 Fee for 12 days work plus preliminary meeting (20th June) - subsistence on top. This role would suit a person who has recently studied dance.

We welcome applications from Deaf and Disabled people with an interest in the Arts.

Closing date: 5th June 2017.

Interviews by Skype on 10th June 2017.

Contact: Alan McLean - Deaf Explorer - deafexplorer@gmail.com

Deaf explorer | Organising exciting events in art spaces, supporting Deaf creatives

MOBILE/TEXT: 07982 237163

R&D Concept: 'Somebody's Watching Me.'

'Somebody's Watching Me' is a cutting edge digital dance show. Dance will be challenged by fusing the highly expressive dance style of Hip Hop with sign language and Deaf culture's own Visual Vernacular. It's a narrative that will appeal to young people that's set in a dystopian future, where social justice has gone and tyranny prevails; Deaf people/sign language users are under surveillance. Unable to 'whisper' the two protagonists Billy Read and Ariel Fung will use their dance skills to create a visual vocabulary to lead a rebellion amongst young Deaf street dancers. 'Somebody's Watching Me' will explore the theme of surveillance; we all live life under a lens and cameras follow our every move. This affects the Deaf sign language using community. It's a powerful metaphor, revealing the omnipresence of surveillance in the information age.