The first year of Emergent is drawing to a close and we are preparing to open applications for year two. We thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with the artists shortlisted for our hybrid residency programme for early career artists, delivered in partnership with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead, to get their feedback and insight.

Abigail Jacqueline Jones came to Emergent brimming with ideas. In our chat below, Abigail tells us how the programme helped to start refining and realising them...

Read more about Emergent

Abigail Jaqueline Jones is a writer, performer, space designer, artist and risograph printmaker based in East London.

Abigail Jacqueline Jones

Shortlisted artist for the Emergent 2022 Cohort

Abigail, a tall, white, trans woman with tied-back dark hair and glasses, is posing amongst a backdrop of trees and wild flowers, dressed in an extremely oversized black skirt suspended in place by a crinoline cage, whilst holding her arms in a ring Why did you apply to Emergent?

I was still suffering from the burnout I experienced after my solo show in 2021, where I didn't support for the venue and gallery. I thought it'd [Emergent] be a good opportunity, working with people that would understand what my skills and limitations were as a person - particularly considering my neuro-type basically. 

I was looking for opportunities, specifically for disabled artists because it'd only been within the last nine months, I'd come to terms with the idea of autism as a disability and I came across the social model of disability - it really stuck with me. It made me less insecure about identifying in that way and realising that these opportunities for disabled artists are what I need and deserved.

What lessons about your practice or anything else - has Emergent offered you?

It's helped reinforce some of the lessons I had already subconsciously realised. Also going through the process of the DYCP application with you - It's just realising exactly what sort of research and art making processes I really wanted to do.

I feel through the process of Emergent, I have learned a lot about where I want my practice to go. It's allowed me more structure to look at all the elements of my practice, from what I want to do, to how to get there, making connections and going through the administrative processes to make things happen. It's made my professional life better!

A portrait photograph of a lino cut in black and brown. Where its been cut away, the brown is revealed. Along the bottom in large letters it reads
A close up image of Abigail

Do you feel like your practice and/or career has experienced any direct improvements during Emergent?

This answer could change very dramatically, depending on what happens next week. [After conducting this interview, Abigail received a DYCP grant through Arts Council England]. If I do end up securing the Arts Council money, it definitely will have!

This time has mostly been about administration and project planning for me. I don't like the idea of being one of those artists who has regular small group exhibitions and things. I'd rather be the person who can have a secure income and keep plugging away at projects that I care about. I don't see this represented a huge amount in art spaces. I am positive that Emergent has given me a framework from which to build my thinking around funding and arranging timelines.

We know terms like ‘emerging’ can create barriers for some artists. What does being described as an ‘emerging artist’ mean to you?

I mean it's understandable, but it’s a bit restrictive at times. Opportunities for emerging artists tend to have a very strict time limit in terms of how long you have been an artist. I've felt a bit of insecurity about being so far behind in my career. At university, I struggled going into a workplace, having to come out and begin transitioning, which was frightening.

In the education system, for example, what works and what makes sense, may not capture the full experience of people within the system. I guess, for whatever reason no matter what barriers they face, it has led to them being either delayed in pursuing a career in art, or that held them back from pursuing it at all until later on in life.

Abigail stands tall wearing an exceedingly long black skirt that makes her much taller than the average person. One hand rests on her stomach and she faces the camera.
Abigail, a tall, white, trans woman with dark hair and glasses, is posing amongst a backdrop of candles warm light, dressed in black lace, holding herself up with both arms and faces the camera.

What’s next for you?

There's a lot of things that are coming to a head over the next couple of weeks. Whatever happens, I am still going to plough ahead with developing the projects I've been formulating during Emergent.

I want to revisit the piece from my solo show back in 2021 among other things. One of the activities that I've arranged to do if I get the DYCP is to produce workshops with a theatre design director and a performance practitioner.

I'm just waiting on these last few decisions on opportunities I’ve applied for and then I'll know my next steps.

Emergent is a project aimed at addressing and tackling the entrenched marginalisation and under-representation of disabled people in the arts sector and wider society. The main focus is creatives at an early stage in their career (including re-emerging artists) who need support in order to continue.

Designed as a hybrid programme, we believe this format is important as we move away from the pandemic conditions, to find that much has changed, and new ways of working and making art are happening. By 'hybrid,' we mean including both in-place and online ways of working, including the making of new artworks and the sharing of creative experiences with audiences.

Alongside the selected Emergent Awardee, a selection of shortlisted artists receive tailored artist support for the duration of the programme.

Artist Support at Shape

As part of our mission to support disabled creatives and change the cultural landscape for the better, we regularly commission new works either as part of our main Arts Council England-funded programme or as one-off projects. On our website you can explore our recent collaborations and commissions and find out more about the artists behind them. 

Check out Abigail's artist profile  Check out the rest of our blog

Banner Image Description: An image of a risograph print in pink on white paper. In pink text top left it reads 'Anguish of the 50ft woman!'. The print is surrounded by a background of pink snippets of images.