Axisweb (Axis) has partnered Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) School of Art in conjunction with Social Art Network (SAN) on an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) fellowship, working with six social artists, community participants, arts organisations and policy makers to understand what kind of barriers underrepresented people face around access culture and creativity.
An important part of what makes a community or an individual marginalised is if they're not heard or included. Through artists making new art in participatory ways with people, conversations will be had exploring the participants’ experiences of being underrepresented with suggestions of how to put this right. We hope to change the way we think about what it means to walk through the door of a gallery, theatre or exhibition space and what might happen inside of them to those whose needs are least addressed by institutions.
The SAFEDI fellowship will encourage solutions across the cultural sector, because it’s not just about one artist, one community group, the one institution that might adopt one or two policies, rather these can become examples for everyone. There’s something really powerful in what the outcome of SAFEDI could be, from paper recommendations to physical changes. It deeply reflects and responds to the moment that we’re living in.
The group will create a series of written, sung, signed, mapped, drawn and danced "Access Recitations", which will be digitised and combined to create an interactive online installation, shared publicly, but particularly focused on engaging staff from cultural institutions / policy makers.
The collective tells us "Through curiosity, mischief and creative intimacies we ( Dan, Sarah, Kitt and Sofia) will work alongside North East based disabled people and staff at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. We aim to use collaborative making as a way to discover, grow and share nuanced understandings about how to embed accessibility into cultural spaces, systems and structures."
Across the summer, there will be JarSquad Assembly events in Plymouth with new community partners, welcoming new community partners to JarSquad’s solidarity economy by making delicious preserves with resources that would otherwise go to waste. Together, they will be co-learning about food preservation as a living social art practice, and sharing thoughts about how squad members have experienced other art projects that request our participation, relationship, and cultural exchange. JarSquad will gather reflections on welcoming others into participation, and how to facilitate well-held co-learning spaces. This will strengthen what they understand as embodied knowledge exchange in making and sharing food, resources and skills as a 'squad'.
Jar Squad tell us: “Our project brings people together through communal food-preservation. We put joy and connection in jars by gathering ingredients, sharing recipes and know-how, and making jams and preserves as a ‘squad’.”
WAAS will explore what it means to have a child-raising network experiencing a cultural institution together. We want to see what institutions can do to move from ‘accommodating’ to ‘embracing, centering, honouring and celebrating’ female reproductive experience. This will be a playful, engaging and interactive performance-based exploration of gallery space from the perspective of people engaged in baby and child growth and caring. Inspired by practices from institutional critique, museum design, guerilla action and midwifery this will take the form of a game.
At this fractious time of culture wars and cuts in arts education funding, it has never been so important to ensure access to the arts for an audience truly reflective of society as a whole. Flatness is excited to join the SAFEDI initiative to carry out creative research to inform wider EDI policy. The Flatness publication produced through SAFEDI will invite a selection of QTIBPOC artists and collectives to speculate and weave fiction into their lives creating space to dream and plan beyond the biting reality of global crises affecting our health, climate and rights to homeland. As well as artists, the publication will also invite readers to feed into the process engaging a critical mass of participants.
Building Warmth will use ideas around the very human act of fire building to open up honest discussions about what accessible and welcoming spaces look and feel like. Working alongside disabled people in Leeds, the project will centre active listening and culminate in a series of warmly built gallery interventions.
Artist Lily tells us “Through conversation, ritual and sculptural making we will explore fire as both a destructive and regenerative force with the potential to humanise conversations about access and inclusion. Using the idea of ‘burning’ to think about barriers, we’ll look to the ashes and build towards warmth for the future”
The Human Memorial (2020-ongoing) is a socially-engaged artwork that explores the symbol of the empty plinth, as a response to the Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall movement, after the Colston statue in Bristol was removed by activists, and prompts the question what do you stand for, and when and where?
Artist Yuen tells us: "I will use the process of making and constructing a series of alternative empty plinths and test them in public space, to prompt discussion about the dismantling and decolonising of Sheffield's colonial history. The artwork aims to create the conditions to generate more creative questions and solutions to the public debate, and posits how we shape and represent our past and future selves, and ultimately promote equity and inclusion in the process."
Lead Fellow / Project Manager
Creative Producer / Lead Artist
Evaluator / Critical Friend