Unlimited: The Symposium. Blog One: Equality – Disability, intersectional identities and the arts.

Sonya Dyer Associate AMAculturehive
©

The first of a series of blogs where session Chairs at Unlimited: The Symposium share their responses with the aim to inspire others. 

Unlimited: The Symposium was a disabled-led, two-day discussion event, held at the Unicorn Theatre on 4 and 5 September 2018. It was aimed at both a national and international audience across the cultural sector, with people attending in or engaging in the discussion and debate online.

 

Equality: Disability, Intersectional Identities and the Arts Symposium – a personal response by the Chair of this session, Sonya Dyer.

One of the most important lessons I learned during the Unlimited Symposium was quite a simple one, but it was something I had, in all honesty, never thought of before.

We were setting up the A/V in advance of the ‘Intersectionality’ panel, in the main auditorium. Lapel mic pinned on my top, I did something I presume I always do – I asked the technician, ‘Can you hear me?’. I did so without thinking, as I imagine most people do, most of the time, when setting up for events.

This lesson was taught by one of the panellists, Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi. Sandie taught by doing – when it was her turn to check her mic, she asked this simple question, ‘Is the mic working?’. Sandie later explained the purpose of framing the question in this way, namely that asking ‘Can you hear me?’ implies that everyone can hear, or indeed should be able to hear. We all know this is not the case.

This stopped me in my tracks. I strive to be a better ally to D/deaf and disabled people. However, I have always asked, ‘Can you hear me?’ without seriously considering the implications of those words.

For me this was a necessary reminder of the importance of unpicking certain seemingly benign behaviours I perform everyday. Learning to be a better ally is a life long practice.

I was grateful to Sandie for handling the situation in the way that she did, by just doing better and sharing her knowledge and understanding with all of us. I don’t imagine I was the only person who needed this lesson.

This is something I will take with me, and change about myself moving forward. In fact, shortly after the Unlimited Symposium, I ran another daylong event with an organisation outside the disability-led sector. As we were setting up the A/V I heard myself asking, ‘Is the mic working?’.

Sonya Dyer, October 2018

 

About Unlimited

Unlimited supports ambitious, creative projects by outstanding disabled artists and companies. The projects include theatre, dance, music, literature, performance, painting, sculpture, public artworks, photography, digital artworks, installations, films and more.

Unlimited wants to change perceptions of disabled people by commissioning disabled artists in the UK and internationally to make new, groundbreaking and high quality work.

We also do this by building a community of Unlimited Allies who help us to embed the work of disabled artists in the mainstream cultural sector and improve access for artists and audiences.

Unlimited is a commissioning programme, not an organisation. It is run by two different organisations:

  • Shape Arts, a disability-led organisation which works with disabled artists and has an office in Kentish Town, London
  • Artsadmin, which supports artists to create work without boundaries and has an office at Aldgate East, London.


Unlimited works with disabled artists from all over the UK
– England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and offers funding for research and development, to make small and large-scale projects happen in the UK and around the world, and awards for emerging artistswho are new to art, early-career or haven’t had reached large audiences yet. We also fund full commissions (from an artist’s idea through to its realisation and touring) and commissions created through international collaborations.

From 2013-2016 Unlimited supported more than 2,300 days of performances and exhibitions by disabled artists, which were seen by over 130,000 people.

Connected resources: The Accessible Marketing Guide

OF/BY/FOR ALL: Nina Simon. Blog – launching the movement

Nina Simon
© Nina Simon

The AMA is backing the OF/BY/FOR ALL change network and following its progress through a series of Blogs by Nina Simon.

Find out more and join the movement including how well your organisation embodies OF/BY/FOR ALL outcomes and practices and how your work can grow.

Launching the First Wave of the OF/BY/For ALL Change network

How do you build a movement for institutional change?

That’s the question we’ve been grappling with as we start the OF/BY/FOR ALL initiative. Our goal is to help civic and cultural institutions become more representative OF, co-created BY, and welcoming FOR their diverse communities. We’ve see this model succeed at the MAH and at other community-centered organizations around the world. We want to share the methods and tools that make it work. Not as a prescriptive recipe, but as a pattern. We see OF/BY/FOR ALL as an adaptable playbook for community change.

The challenge is to figure out the best way to share that playbook. Last year, we tested out different formats. We explored opening a training center. Publishing toolkits. Consulting. Building a leadership development program. We even thought about franchising.

The model we landed on was movement building. We plan to fuel a distributed Change Network of organizations growing OF/BY/FOR ALL together. We’ll offer an online program for change, support a global community of practice, and keep expanding the program based on community input.

We want to make the “how” of community involvement clear and achievable. Change Network organizations will make specific pledges to become of, by, and for new communities. We’ll provide tools to help organizations meet their goals step by step. As the network grows, more of the tools and knowledge base will come from participating institutions, with our staff focusing on community organizing and connections.

Our near-term goal is to enroll at least 200 organizations by the end of 2020, collectively pledging to involve one million new people in their work. Eventually, we may build a certification program, like LEED for green buildings, or B Corps for social enterprise. But we’re starting with a campaign to involve one million people – and to build a community of organizations helping each other make it happen.

We’re excited about this movement-building model for three reasons:

It taps diverse sources of expertise. The MAH is not the authority on all things OF/BY/FOR ALL. By building a change network, we will empower diverse organizations to share methods and expertise with each other.

It scales. We want to go big with this movement. We plan to involve hundreds of organizations in the next three years – and thousands in the years to come. We realized that models that rely heavily on in-person training or consulting wouldn’t scale to the extent of our dreams.

It emphasizes action. Talk is good. Change is better. Change Network organizations will make specific commitments to become of, by, and for more diverse people. The program we’re building will help accelerate their progress. But it starts with organizations demonstrating eagerness and pledging to take action.

The Change Network program launches next week in prototype form with a First Wave of twenty organizations (full list at the end of this post). We selected a First Wave that reflects diversity of geography, size, and sector, so we can see who this works best for and why. The First Wave includes 6 museums, 5 performing arts organizations, 3 public libraries, 3 parks, and 3 community centers. Half are led by people of color or indigenous people. We represent six countries and ten time zones. For this prototype, 19 of 20 are in English-speaking countries, to provide as much clarity as possible as we get feedback from participants. In the future, we look forward to taking what we learn from this First Wave to build a strong Change Network with organizations all over the world.

I can’t wait to learn with and from these amazing First Wave organizations. Some are leaders in the field of community participation. Others are just getting started. All are ready and eager to grow of, by, and for their communities.

OF/BY/FOR ALL is one of many projects in a growing ecosystem of efforts to propel more inclusive institutions. Some people are writing toolkits. Some are giving workshops. Some are developing training programs. Some are leading academic studies. Some are funding projects. If we are going to build a more inclusive world, we don’t need just one or two projects. We need an ecosystem of activists, academics, funders, professionals, policymakers, and associations striving together towards common goals.

With OF/BY/FOR ALL, we’re playing a role in this ecosystem as an accelerant for organizational change. I respect my colleagues who are writing, advocating, funding, and researching the nuances of community work. Heck, I’ve spent lots of time participating in those ways myself. But today, I’m motivated to focus my resources and energy on a program to help organizations commit to action and make it happen. That’s what OF/BY/FOR ALL is all about.

As we learn more from the First Wave and build the Change Network, we’ll write about it on the OF/BY/FOR ALL website. So if you want to join us in sharing stories and opportunities to become of, by, and for your community, please consider joining that email list today.

Here is the brave, beautiful, and wide-ranging First Wave:

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, CA, USA (host site)

National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, USA

Techniquest in Cardiff, Wales, UK (science center)

HistoryMiami Museum in Miami, FL, USA

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, NY, USA

Immigration Museum in Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Te Manawa in Palmerston North, Aotearoa, NZ (museum)

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam in Schiedam, Netherlands

Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI, USA

Oakland Symphony in Oakland, CA, USA

Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, TX, USA

Laundromat Project in New York, NY, USA

ARTZ Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, USA

Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA, USA

St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, IN, USA

Dakota County Library in Eagan, MN, USA

Los Angeles River State Park Partners in Los Angeles, CA, USA

Divis and Black Mountain in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Movement BE in San Diego, CA, USA (youth empowerment)

Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition in Minneapolis, MN, USA

Genesis Centre in Calgary, AB, Canada (community wellness)

I can’t wait to learn and build the Change Network with this First Wave in the months to come.

Nina Simon

First published on the MuseumTwo Blogspot

OF/BY/FOR ALL is a new worldwide initiative brought to you by Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

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