aanm.ca/Disabled artists put a unique spin on creativity causing us to go even further past our known and comfortable realities. Setting new heights in what the imagination can achieve.
I have been teaching Artists with intellectual disabilities for years, and I have found them to be some of the most creative people I know. The fact is, that Artists with intellectual and/ or physical disabilities do not have the same exhibiting and training opportunities as Artists without.
So WHY do we as an Arts Community need to make this a priority in our grant funding, training programs for artists, and add this to our exhibition categories?
It is quite simple really. Without providing an inclusive and accessible arts community for disabled artists you may be preventing the world from experiencing some of the greatest works of modern society. Exhibiting disabled artists should never be considered "taboo" or "difficult", but for some organisations it is.
So WHAT can we do as an Arts Community do to make exhibiting disabled Artists a much easier task?
Whether you are hosting an Arts Festival or Arts Exhibit for disabled artists, you are running a project and managing an income for an Artist. Artists with disabilities will need help curating, pricing, framing, and advertising their work. That is where you come in.
Currently there are no business, or cultural management training programs available to artists with disabilities relevant to Fine Artists and Artisans. If it wasen't for my career and education in management, sales and customer service, small business and project management, I wouldn't be the successful Artist you see today. There are business programs, grant funding, and small business loans available in Canada to Entrepreneurs, but not necessarily for Artists in general, never mind Artists with disabilities.
WE can change that! Here are some ways YOU as a cultural organization can contribute to moving disabled arts forward:
*Most importantly make your training available through webinars, so Artists do not need to travel, or can take the workshops or training program from home with a care provider.*
If you would like any help with any of the above suggestions, and need help making connections. Here is a list of great organisations located in Manitoba who are currently working towards helping disabled artists:
Have you ever wondered why you don't see many disabled artists exhibiting their work publicly, and teaching art classes?
As an Artist with a disability I can say from personal and professional experience that art needs to become more accessible. Although there are several people and organizations who are hosting exhibits for those with disabilities, and providing some training programs for artists, they do not cover all artistic disciplines.
First we must ask ourselves the following two questions:
1. WHAT qualifies as a disability?
2. WHY does what type of disability matter?
3. WHO is affected by accessibility issues for disabled artists?
To answer the first question I will simply provide the dictionary definition of WHAT a disability is:
condition, disorder, affliction
"my disability makes getting into bed a slow process"
When people think of disability the first thoughts that often come to mind are:
A person who is either blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, or missing limbs, not necessarily other health conditions or invisible disabilities. Another spectrum of disabilities are intellectual ones, which may or may not be visible at all.
Why does what type of disability you have matter?
How it matters to the person with it differs, but it SHOULDN'T matter to exhibitions which one you have. Most exhibitions for artists with disabilities have very specific criteria of what type of disability you must have in order to participate, unintentionally creating a 'non-inclusive' environment.
It may not be appropriate to have all disabilities at EVERY exhibition, but I have found that most are targeted towards blind, deaf, and those with visible physical handicaps. All Artists should have EQUAL opportunities to showcase their work, and receive artistic training throughout the year.The Artist thinks to themselves "Well perhaps if I had that disability my artwork would count." The truth is all art in all forms counts, and should be seen and experienced by exhibitors, and judged the same way art produced by an artists without a disability is.
Exhibiting your art as an artist with a disability has several unseen barriers that may affect non-disabled artists as well, but are particular more challenging if your disability is physical and/ or intellectual.
For an Artist or Entrepreneur with a disability these barriers although only exist on paper, can be a significant setback.
WHY it exhibitions are still non-inclusive:
1. The exhibitions only allow submissions from artists with specific disabilities, leaving several artists out of the picture.
2. The exhibits do not provide transportation or shipping of the artworks to and from the exhibiting location.
3. The exhibits if held at all are only once a year or more in a specific city/ province that may be to costly to travel to for n emerging artist with a disability.
4. There are only a couple online art contests created for artists with disabilities every year across canada.
5. Art stores do not all sell online, and may not have the products an Artist may need so he/ or she will have to travel to a store that may not be wheelchair accessible
6. Disabled Artists are more likely to live in poverty, so taking a high commission off of their paintings, and requiring them to frame it in order to apply to an exhibit may automatically disclude their practice no matter how talented they are.
7. There are not many exhibiting travel grants for artists with disabilities who would like to expand their practice nationally or internationally.
8. Art gallery/ studio may or may not be wheelchair accessible, and may not have an accessible washroom. If the studio is smaller in size it may not be wheelchair friendly at all. This is especially true for art galleries located in older buildings.
9. There are not many mentor ship training programs for artists with disabilities that cover all artistic disciplines.
This is why I always encourage Artists to build their brand online as much as possible, and to be very strategic about where they exhibit their work. Most importantly to showcase their work in an art studio or gallery that is wheelchair accessible. The more barriers you place in front of an already 'starving artist' with a disability, the less motivated they will be to pursue their artistic practice
Tips To Help Artists Showcase Their Work And Make Money
1. Don't always be so specific about the type of disability. Make your exhibit(s) open to all physical disabilities, or all intellectual disabilities and cover multiple artistic disciplines.
2. Teach disabled Artists entrepreneurial skills such as online marketing, sales, customer service, and administration skills
3. Provide transportation or transportation grants and/ or funding to Artists who need assistance when exhibiting or training
4. Make your building more accessible by purchasing ramps/ and keeping studio furniture to a minimum to allow for wheelchairs to move throughout the building without needing staff assistance. Small things like the weight of a door, and how difficult it is to open can be the one thing that keeps people with disabilities out of your building.
5. Have your gallery staff trained to assist those with intellectual or physical disabilities to make the exhibit more welcoming and interactive.
6. For individuals with sensory challenges who are either the artists exhibiting or a guest at an exhibit, try to learn how to incorporate sensory objects, lighting, and sound into production elements of the show. For exhibits that are simply a walk by and take a look feel, that may or may not be an environment that a person with an intellectual disability could enjoy.
I want my art to be as inclusive as possible to guests, including those with an intellectual or physical disability. I have found it challenging to find traditional galleries accommodating, so most of the time I rent a theatre or an empty room that I can adapt to make more accessible for my audience. Typically when I call to book a venue I have found alot of galleries have not put much thought into the above, so I am not always able to hold my own exhibits as much as I would like too.
I purposefully make my paintings with gel mediums, and elements of scuplture in acrylic so that guests who are blind or who learn from touch can touch my art. I KNOW! OH MY GOSH! THATS THE ULTIMATE NO, NO!!!! If you think about it......how else would they get to experience my work? I have several layers of varnish on my pieces, and they do not get touched every day so to me, it is worth it.
I am not asking you to let anyone touch any artists work. All I am saying is that it is not just disabled artists that we need to accommodate, but disabled guests. Lets work together to make this happen shall we?
Here are some awesome links and resources to help you make art more accessible:
If you are looking for a paint night, workshop or art class to be instructed to artists with disabilities, and/ or art mentors contact ArtWithSas directly: 204.894.1075
The hardest obstacle for any new adult artist is to learn to love the experimentation process.
Yes you can learn from reading art books, taking art classes, and watching Bob Ross on YouTube and with a little practice you shall succeed.
Years ago famous artists didn't rush themselves when they painted. They took their time to create a masterpiece.
Art was was purposeful, and a historic archive. It was an active log of the cultures religious, political, and economical climate. It was also a way for Artist's to express their passion for the things they loved around them (landscapes/ seascapes/still life/ floral and people). Artists had deadlines when they were commissioned, but other than that they painted at THEIR OWN pace and leisure. I believe that is what makes them works of art. They did it to create something THEY believed was amazing, it did not matter what others thought, or how long it took.
Our world moves at a very fast pace, and any form of art is learned over time. Even with things being sped up by technology.When you are taking an art class give yourself the freedom to learn at your own pace. Don't put conditions, restrictions, and time limitations upon yourself. Let thoughts of painting speed and brush technique perfection go. One day you will render a painting exactly how you want it to as long as you trust yourself and the process.
Some of my greatest works came from mistakes I thought I had made in a particular painting. I have accidentally learned and created new techniques by allowing myself to PLAY.Take a break, and a sigh. Come back to the painting in a few minutes, or however long it takes you to chill. Fresh perspective can go a long way. :)
Here are some tips to help you CHILL and CREATE :)
1. Organize your painting work space before you begin.
- Lay out the colors and brushes you want to use.
- Clean your brushes & apply brush shaper soap to get them ready. Discard any crusted or ruined brushes/
- Have a completely clean palette available to use right away if you are working on a new piece.
- Get your music/ movie/ or TV show on and your favorite yummy beverage to get those juices flowing. ;)
- Lay out a tarp if you will be painting from a distance with a larger canvass and brushes, and an apron and/ or paint clothes so you don't have to stop in the middle of painting to clean yourself up.
2. Have an idea of the image(s) you would like to create
- Inspire yourself! google search random words that come to mind, and check out different images. If some inspire you download them (but do not infringe on copyrights by copying it). You can also use your favorite photography of things or people you are interested in, and paint a version of the image or just use it to get some excitement flowing.
- Some people like to read books, magazines, or newspapers to create a collage of images they can paint from. If you are still learning to paint a new subject, this is a great way to put a painting together if you have "painters block".
- Visit your local galleries and exhibits of Artists at various skill levels. Artist talks are a great way to learn what inspired the Artist to create their series of work(s) and what products and supplies they used to create it. If you really like something they do you can add it into your style, or save years trying to "guess" how the greats did it.
- Follow Artists at various skill levels in multiple painting or drawing genres and disciplines. A few minutes on Pinterest or Instagram can really get the juices flowing!
3. Buy and use a painting sketchbook to practice brushstroke and drawing techniques.
- If you are painting something for the first time it is recommended that you practice your brush strokes repeatedly until you feel you have mastered them on a separate piece of paper. You can do this by practicing from YouTube tutorials, painting and drawing books or from google images (as mentioned in .2)
4. Clear your artspace from distracting, uninspiring clutter or anything that takes away from your positive painting vibe.
- Maybe it is a stack of homework or other works in progress. Either way a fresh, clean space can clear your mind giving your imagination room to spread it's colorful wings. ;)
- If you don't have your own studio or artspace give yourself one. Even if it is one side or corner of a table or a room. Every hobby deserves a designated space to create and learn in. I.E "A hobby sanctuary." It does not have to be fancy, just a space where you can make a mess without feeling like it needs to be cleaned after every visit from you.
5. Invest in good quality student supplies
- I understand we all want to save money, but using cheap paints and brushes in the beginning are actually more expensive in the long run as they do not last long. They also do not mix or blend well, and brush strokes will not be as good. Of course you shouldn't go buy high end supplies when you first start painting because it takes discipline to control your brush strokes and amount of paint usage to hone in on your skills. . Remember your first pieces of works you are not trying to sell,and may or may not gift to someone.They are intended for you to learn, but don't give yourself a pair of shoes without shoelaces and be surprised when you trip. (Cheesy metaphor...I know. :)
6. Paint a small painting for loved ones for their birthday and/ or holiday as keepsakes
- Nothing challenges and improves your artistic ability like painting something for a loved one as there is motivation to do well. You will end up painting something awesome and interesting you may not have otherwise, and it shows them you truly care.
Conclusion: Set yourself up for success before you put a single brush stroke to the canvass.
I have been teaching kids music, dance, and fitness for several years in daycare's and schools across MB. It wasen;'t until I gave birth to my own child that I discovered the challenges of post par-tum recovery. Like many moms, I felt the birthing experience was very traumatic, and I wasent sure how to deal with my emotions with so many changes happening all at once. Most of the time you are so sleep deprived, it is hard to have much energy to do anything else other than to care for your baby.
I was staring at the flowers my mom had bought me for the hospital which were starting to fade, and I thought to myself..."If I glue these petals to a painting they will last forever." So I did just that. This time what I was painting was not about creating a masterpiece for myself, or a piece to sell, but just to let out the emotions that were boiling over. I worked on it 10 mins here and there over a week or so, and at the end I looked at it and cried. It was a good cry though. I knew that every brush stroke was a release, and a step in the healing direction.
Now, just like the belly cast I created for my son, I keep these paintings as a reminder of where I came from, where I am, and where I am going with my new family. I hang them on the wall with honor, like a warrior woman who has won the first part of the battle, birthing a healthy child.
I am so glad I decided to paint during my pregnancy. In the 6 months I was home on maternity leave I painted over 15 paintings, and completed so many other small works of arts as gifts to friends. My child inspired me so much. He brought so much life, and beauty to my brush that I couldn't have painted otherwise if he had not been growing inside my womb.
I do believe that a healthy mom, raises healthy children. I also believe that in order for a recovering mom to feel good about herself, her new body, and new life, it starts with harnessing the beauty she has inside of her. One of the best ways to bring it out is through creativity. Mom's in our pursuit of perfection at home, can loose sight of what makes us special and happy too. Yes! your kids come first, but leaving yourself behind is not the answer.
You make sure your kids have adequate arts education at school and at home, give yourself that gift too.
I encourage you to invest in yourself a couple of hours once a week or a few times a month by taking an art class.
Classes offered: Monday afternoons 1pm,-3pm and Wednesday evenings from 6:30pm-8:30pm (Beginner-Adults) at Michaels (Polo Park) - 840 St. James Street. Wpg. MB. **Register in person to learn more.***
Stephanie A.E Strugar
Certified Grumbacher Painting & Drawing Instructor.
She is a retired Certified Face/ Body & Temporary Tattoo Artist.
Caricaturist. She is currently an active
Public Speaker, Consultant, and Arts Educator in the Manitoba and greater Canada area.