Frequent and deliberate discrimination is faced by disabled artists in the arts and creative industries… still! why?
Disabled artists continue to face discrimination and underrepresentation in the art industry. Despite being the world’s largest minority, disabled artists, authors, film-makers and creatives remain underrepresented in museums and galleries.
Studies examining audience diversity in museums and art galleries reveal that there is a lack of social inclusion of disabled performers, especially in developing countries where access to basic human resources is limited.
Museums and galleries often focus solely on accessibility for disabled individuals, rather than broader questions of diversity and inclusion. When a disabled artist does break through this glass ceiling it is either short-lived or at great emotional-tax cost to the artist.
You will not find highstreet, online or other book-sellers with ‘Disabled Authors’ shelves and highlighted sections? -Although Dr Hannah Barham-Brown is doing some campaigning here to encourage Waterstones to do this, brilliant, and long over-due.
But where are the literally agents, publishers making an effort to reach out to Disabled Writers? Where are the galleries, film studios and advertising agencies saying ‘lets collaborate’ with Disabled Artists?
As a result, disabled creatives are often excluded from opportunities to showcase their work in galleries and exhibitions, leading to a lack of visibility and recognition. Even as a walking stick user I have recently been told -by a major gallery- “Yes, but Disability Art, Your paintings, are just a hobby, it’s not a genre…”
This attitude means that Disabled artists also face limited access to resources and opportunities in the art industry. A study revealed that only 28% of venues and festivals regularly present or support work by disabled artists, highlighting the lack of support for disabled artists in the industry. I would hate to see the percentage of ‘accessible’ spaces in the industry to exhibit and facilitate new works.
The geographical concentration of exhibitions in major cities and the inaccessibility of public transport for those with disabilities also limit the ability of disabled artists to access resources and opportunities.
Visiting ANY arts festival is becoming a point of conflict and hate. The Tate-Modern needs urgent work to its communal areas to protect disabled visitors, most arts festivals are condescending to the point of aggressive towards Disabled participants and visitors, even the Hay Literature Festival, (Which I will be at), I am going to knowing it will be both emotionally taxing and physically challenging for me as a disabled person… do the organisers care, I think not really.
Adopting inclusive practices at performing arts institutions can facilitate the safe inclusion of youth with disabilities, creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for disabled artists. We are seeing great work here with organisations running Disabled People lead events and organisations. The work of Together!2012 and Cheshire Dance and many other organisations in the space of local and national Disabled Arts events is brilliant and much needed, but underfunded.
The usual stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and creativity further perpetuate discrimination against disabled artists. Negative ideas around disability are continually perpetuated in the industry, leading to misunderstandings, misconceptions, and negative, hateful, harmful narratives surrounding the lives of disabled people.
However, disability arts can counteract these negative narratives by creating work that challenges stereotypes and promotes a more accurate portrayal of disabled individuals.
Allyship with disabled artists not only improves the welfare of a minority group but also allows disabled people as a whole to form a more positive and accurate representation in the art industry.
This may read like ‘another rant’ that’s ok, it is. I am tired of being told my creativity is a hobby, I am tired of people making decisions for me, and most of all, I just want to write more books and share more smiles with people.
Disabled Creatives do not want your support. They want your inclusion, fully, and without the emotional tax that we currently face.