The Shortlist 7 opening party was a celebration of ARMB present and past, with Carmen Papalia exploring "an alternative to visual culture" that everyone can experience.

Carmens artists talk in progressThe photo above has to be one of the best celebrations of Shape in its current form - four Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary winners, each with a career going from strength to strength, gathered in our flagship pop-up space and embracing the tactile, inclusive future that 2015 recipient Carmen Papalia envisages for the art world. It's also really good fun.

On 19 March, Shape and guests launched the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary 2015 Shortlist 7 exhibition with an opening party and artist talk from Carmen. Shortlist 7 showcases work by the artists shortlisted for this year's bursary - Laila Cassim, Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings and Peter Matthews, as well as by Carmen himself. You can see (and feel!) the exhibition at Shape Gallery, Westfield Stratford until 30 May - click here to find out more about visiting the exhibition.

This year's selected artists reflect a very international portrait of disability - on the night of the launch alone, Laila was exhibiting in Japan and Omeima in Qatar with Shape, whilst Carmen is originally from Canada, and Peter is a constant wanderer on the Atlantic Ocean. The art forms represented were also extremely diverse - from the bright patterns of Laila's work to Peter's mesmerising video, and the flowing lines of Omeima's designs.

At Shape, we love breaking down the barriers that prevent people getting involved with art, and for Shortlist 7 we found a new way to make our events even more accessible. Carmen's artist's talk (complete with BSL translation) was streamed live by This Is Tomorrow, so that people across the UK and even further afield could join us by tuning in to watch on the Shape website. “Truly liberating a single parent can tune into a talk in London from Shropshire - Hurrah!!” one appreciative viewer responded.

A visitor interacts with an element of the work, a box filled with polystyreneIf you missed the live broadcast, you can catch up by watching a recording of Carmen's talk below. As with Carmen's work more generally, the talk was a compelling mix of personal experience and universal concepts - learning through your non-visual senses as Carmen does is "a realm that has experiences that don’t have names", he explains. "There’s a big gap between what has already been documented and established, and the place that I’m asking people to be in."

From replacing his white cane with a marching band, to exploring "how [we] can empower ourselves to realise the potential in a museum" at the V&A, Carmen's practice subverts the way we interact with the spaces around us. His talk is well worth listening to for a new perspective on experiencing art. You can also read his guest blog post for Shape, 'Getting to the Front Lobby', here.

As the empty glasses were cleared away (as usual, the treats kindly donated by Salty Dog and Pig and Hay had disappeared in a flurry of crumbs early in the night...), Shape CEO Tony Heaton and four Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary recipients gathered around the tactile section of the exhibition. Sally Booth (winner 2009), Carmen Papalia (winner 2015), Aaron McPeake (winner 2013) and Aaron Williamson (winner 2010) represent the heritage of Shape and the development of the artists we work with - we're excited to see where the ARMB alumni progress to next!

Read the Disability Arts Online review of the exhibition here.

Banner image: Tony Heaton and past ARMB winners.
Top image: Carmen's talk in progress.
Bottom image: Visitors are encouraged to interact with the exhibition in a tactile way.
All images by Rachel Cherry.