What’s your take on disability and art?

What’s your take on disability and art?

SHAPE is a disability-led arts organisation working to improve access to the arts for disabled people. They’re currently calling for artists to join the Shape Open Exhibition 2012, where people can showcase artwork around the subject of disability.

Based in Camden, north London, Shape works locally and nationally, promoting excellence in the work of disabled and deaf artists across all art forms, impairments and ages.

Shape is currently inviting applications for the Shape Open Exhibition to be held at the Portobello Gallery, Notting Hill, London, 23rd April to 5th May 2012.

The theme is “disability”, but this is it not about showcasing the work of disabled artists. All works will be considered, from both disabled and non-disabled artists.

Works will be accepted on the basis of quality, recognising that quality is a subjective matter. The only criterion is that that the work should comment on, or make reference to, issues surrounding disability.

Tony Heaton, Shape CEO explained: “This call for submissions is open in every sense. The word, disability, is open to interpretation.”

Ben Fredericks, curator at Shape added: “Disabled people have reclaimed the word disability; we don’t need to hang on to it. The focus is on the art, not the artist, disabled or otherwise.”

The Shape Open Prize of £500 will be given to the artist with the best works in show, as selected by the selection committee. The People’s Choice Award of £250 will go to the artist whose work has been most voted for by visitors to the exhibition.

Could this exhibition be seen as an open invitation for non-disabled artists to express what we already know, that disability remains, to a large extent, something to be feared or dreaded, ignored or deplored?

And yet, to the extent that artists represent the masses, what a brilliant opportunity to test the mood of the nation. In these days of cuts to services, the persistence of the right-to-die brigade, and the real threat of disabled people disappearing back behind the gates of institutions, I often wonder what people actually think; if they think at all, that is.

Shape is a charity and, like everyone else, is seeing its funding hit hard times. Therefore, there is a small submission fee of £10 for up to 2 pieces. The deadline for submissions is Monday 19th March 2012.

Full instructions on how to apply can be found here on Shape‘s website.

Shape Open Exhibition 2012 is supported by the Arts Council EnglandShapeWestway Development Trust and HSBC.

By Deborah Caulfield

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