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Creating Pathways: Insights on support for artists with disability

Sep 19, 2018

Creating Pathways: Insights on support for artists with disability

Every Australian should be able to experience the transformative power of art and participate in the cultural life of the nation, no matter where they live, what language they speak, their life stage, or circumstances.

The Australia Council believes that Australia’s diversity is a great cultural asset. We recognise artists with disability as vital contributors to Australia’s arts and culture. Disability in the arts offers excellence and artistry, as well as unique perspectives and lived experiences that challenge and redefine aesthetics.

Artists with disability contribute layers of powerful expression, creativity and storytelling. Their work engenders dialogue, empathy and understanding, and can shift perceptions of disability through authentic insights. Disability in the arts is about the potential of art to change lives.

The Australia Council has a longstanding commitment to access and inclusion, and fostering representation and diversity in the arts. We recognise the barriers and inequities in society that impact on arts practice and participation, including for people with disability.

The Council has a legislative mandate to support art that reflects the diversity of Australia.  This mandate is central to our national leadership role fostering excellence in the arts and increasing national and international engagement with Australian arts and artists.

This report brings together findings and insights from a range of research undertaken in 2017–18 to inform the Council’s approach to future support for artists with disability.

Australia Council support for artists with disability

This report presents:

  • Results of the evaluation of the Sync Leadership program (2014–15).
  • Results of the evaluation of the Arts and Disability funding initiative (2014–17).

The results of these evaluations are contextualised with insights drawn from wider literature and research about artists with disability and contemporary arts practice, including a case study and examples that bring these insights to life. These insights highlight the nuanced, intersecting and evolving factors impacting people with disability in the arts.

Key insights

  •  Artists with disability create great art that is being recognised.
  • There is evidence of the impacts and benefits of work by artists with disability.
  • Artists with disability are a wide and diverse group. Their opportunities and barriers to create, work, and participate in the arts are complex and varied.
  • Agency and ownership are critical.
  • Visible success stories, role models and mentors are key to building opportunities and leadership.

Case study: Julia Hales

The report includes a case study that explores the journey of artist, performer, theatre maker, facilitator and arts leader Julia Hales. In 2018 Perth Festival premiered a new Australian work You Know We Belong Together. Its star and creator Julia Hales collaborated with an extraordinary team to spark ideas about love, sexuality, relationships, starting a family, and how people with disability are portrayed in popular culture. A co-production between WA arts and disability organisation DADAA, Perth Festival and Black Swan State Theatre Company, the story focused on Julia’s desire for love, and to portray a character in her favorite show Home and Away. These themes galvanized her creative collaborators and moved audiences at sellout performances. Julia also has Down syndrome.

Julia Hales performing in You Know We Belong Together, Perth Festival. Credit: Toni Wilkinson/Perth Festival