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1. Consider why the commission is taking place, and the sought-for benefits or outcomes for you and the disabled artist. What is the basis of the commission, and how will you frame your messaging in the recruitment and delivery phases to avoid common pitfalls around stereotyping?

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2. Consult with disabled people/disability-led groups to inform yourself where you have knowledge gaps. The artist should be asked to identify their support needs and it is these needs that are to be addressed.

Merely asking someone if they are disabled and then guessing or assuming what their access needs will cause problems. Equally, don’t expect the commissioned artist to know everything that you do not, or act as a consultant when they are principally a creative leading on a project.

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Identify the commission’s critical path and at what steps along it might an individual require access support, and in what form might this be provided. Support with completing an application may involve a very different kind of skill or input compared to communication support at meetings and events.

Consider the different phases and what the artist is expected to do - what kind of facilities might they need and how much travel might be involved? How much of the process can be streamlined and can this feed back into streamlining the way you commission more generally?

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Build access costs into your budget on an informed basis - the panning above will help with this. Not sure what these costs might be? Revert to Point 2. 

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Linking to Point 1, consider the commission’s legacy and how you might build on the results of the commission in terms of learning and confidence. While you should not expect the artist to haul in new audiences by virtue of their disabled identity, it may be that audiences you previously found hard to reach or did not have connection with at all, responded to the artist and their work.

Monitoring audience responses in an accessible and imaginative way can provide key insights into ensuring these audiences return, combined with programming relevant to their interests of course.

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Every commission will have its high and lows on its way to bringing something new into the world. Using the commissioning process to try out new things, experiment, and take risks is likely to be integral to the way you work as a commissioner, or creative entity. Commissioning a disabled artist ought to be just the same process of blended excitement, creativity and planning, with support put in place as appropriate to keep things running smoothly.

By taking a few additional planning steps and being prepared to ask the right questions, have an honest conversation here and there, the ‘risk’ element can remain centred in the work and its creative impact, not in the way you are delivering it.  

Interested in knowing more about the artists Shape supports?

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Want to find out about the commissions and projects we've worked on before?

Check out Shape's commissions  

Uncertain about starting out? Contact us to find out how we might be able to support you with consultancy and training.

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