Looking back over our 40th anniversary… and looking ahead!

‘I think, like many people who work in the arts in this country, many of the people who visit arts organisations in this country, we owe an enormous debt to Shape, for bringing together people who have something to teach each other, for giving opportunities to artists, for essentially making the arts accessible to parts of the population that would probably otherwise have not been engaged.’ - Wonderful words from Sir Nicolas Serota, Director of Tate galleries, and soon-to-be Chair of Arts Council England, speaking at our 40th anniversary celebration event at the National Theatre, October 2016.

This heartfelt and marvellous quote perfectly sums up our 40th year - and our mission as a whole: the full inclusion of disabled people in the arts. Read on to see how we put these words into action during 2016!

gold hearing trumpet, Aaron Williamson 2010

'Art, Life Activism' at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

Shape kicked off 2016 halfway through 'Art, Life, Activism' - an exhibition co-curated by ourselves at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester. 'Art, Life, Activism' provided a unique opportunity to explore the work of leading artists whose work has a disability focus, including Tony Heaton OBE (our Chief Executive), Noëmi Lakmaier, Aaron Williamson, Bobby Baker, Simon Raven, David Hevey, Adam Reynolds and Liz Crow. Using sculpture, performance, drawing and film, the exhibition addressed issues around political activism, economic participation, medical treatment, public access and hidden history. 

Our friends over at Disability Arts Online reviewed the exhibition beautifully, which you can read at www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/attenborough-arts-centre-launch-art-life-activism

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary at New Art Gallery Walsall

January saw our annual Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary and accompanying 3 month artist residency of the recipient - digital and video artist Caglar Kimyoncu - this year hosted by The New Art Gallery Walsall. ‘This bursary empowers artists by giving them a blank canvas and a space to create, without pressure', Caglar told us, 'I am delighted to be able to explore an issue close to my heart, the militarisation of youth, and look forward to working on this with The New Art Gallery Walsall.’

Now, as the year draws to a close, we're looking forward to our next Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary with willow-weaving artist Oliver MacDonald, who will be in residence at Turner Contemporary, Margate from February - join us! Full informaion on what he's planning and how you can come and experience it can be found at www.shapearts.org.uk/Event/armb-oliver-macdonald-residency-at-turner-contemporary

Kate Murdoch and Yinka Shonibare MBE pose beside Kates sculpture.

The 2016 Shape Open - 'My Life'

This February, in front of a crowded gallery at his Guest Projects space in Hackney, Shape Open patron Yinka Shonibare MBE announced artist Kate Murdoch as the winner of this year's Open exhibition, with her sculpture - 'Bad Head Day'. This year's theme - 'My Life' - brought together around 40 artworks centred on disability, with the winning piece chosen by Yinka Shonibare himself, Tony Heaton, and Helen Sainsbury, Head of Programme Realisation at Tate Modern. 

Kate Murdoch spoke to us about her piece, saying: 'As a partially deaf person, I spend a lot of time trying to make sense of the world around me. Hearing aids amplify, but don’t necessarily clarify sounds or the human voice. What’s going on? What’s being said? The frustration involved in struggling to hear and join in conversations can sometimes just all feel too much. ‘Bad Head Day’ is representative of the confusion and muddle I can sometimes find myself in: something akin to a head exploding.'

The 2017 Open - 'Power: The Politics of Disabiliy' - will be taking place at the Ecology Pavilion, Mile End Park, from 19 January to 2 February and we would love to see you there. For the full list of exhibiting artists, and visiting information, see our website at www.shapearts.org.uk/Event/shape-open-2017

Yinka Shonibare MBE also gave a talk at the Open on 'Becoming an Artist', which you can watch at www.shapearts.org.uk/news/yinka-shonibare-talk-feb-2016

Shape Gallerys auction exhibition

Contemporary Art Benefit Auction at our Pop-Up Gallery

In March, we held a prestigious contemporary art benefit auction, powered by online auction house Paddle8, with an accompanying viewing-cum-exhibition at our pop-up gallery space in Stratford, London. In recognition of our 40th anniversary and the continued importance of our work, 25 pieces of work were generously donated by well-known artists including Grayson Perry, Hito Steyerl, Ragnar Kjartansson and Bedwyr Williams - we raised over £27,000!

The auction was an excellent high note on which to end our time at our most recent pop-up gallery, and we're very grateful to everyone who donated art and worked to make this event such a success. To see the full list of artists involved - and read a full 'thank you' - please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/Blog/shape-art-auction-thank-you

Lord Melvyn Bragg

NDACA Launch at the House of Lords

This April saw the launch of one of the projects we deliver - the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA). The launch took place at the House of Lords and was a massive success, with over 100 key influencers from UK arts and culture sector and the disability arts world, and great attendance by disability rights activists, disabled artists and history-makers. For us, this demonstrates the great achievements of the Disability Arts Movement.

Have a look at our latest NDACA blog post, which focuses on our continued collecting and archiving of works to illustrate the great heritage story that is the Disability Arts Movement: www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/ndaca-back-to-the-future

Inspiring Futures at Roundhouse

Our Inspiring Futures youth programme brought young, disabled Londoners together for a free, celebratory afternoon event in July at the Roundhouse, Camden, focussing on developing arts careers.

The day commenced with a panel discussion chaired by A New Direction, asking "How do we ensure accessible and inclusive career routes for young disabled people in London's thriving creative economy?". After this, attendees split into three groups and took it in turns to visit our Careers Hub, have guided tours of the Roundhouse and take part in arts workshops. It was a fantastic day looking towards the bright, creative futures of young disabled people - read about it in full at www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/inspiring-futures-roundhouse-event 

We regularly post opportunities for young disabled people on our website's youth pages, which you can find at www.shapearts.org.uk/Pages/News/Category/shape-youth

The Unlimited Festivals

Unlimited, the groundbreaking arts-commissioning programme we co-run with Artsadmin, took London and Glasgow by storm this September! Works we've supported through the programme were on display at the Unlimited Festivals at Southbank Centre, London, and Tramway, Glasgow, showcasing art, performance, theatre, talks and unexpected happenings, including Liz Carr's 'Assisted Suicide: The Musical', Jack Dean's 'Grandad and the Machine', and Noëmi Lakmaier's 'Cherophobia' (pictured).

'The art in this festival exists and glows because of Shape and ArtsAdmin’s commissioning programme', write avant garde art critics The White Pube; read in full at www.thewhitepube.co.uk/unlimited

Get stuck into Unlimited at www.weareunlimited.org.uk - new commissions are on the way soon!

Access Auditing and Disability Equality Training

This year, we delivered access auditing and training both nationally and internationally, in Brazil and Japan, to help cultual organisations and venues ensure that disabled people have full access to them.

Throughout the year, Shape's Nick Goss audited and trained at high profile UK arts venues including the Whitechapel Gallery and Institute of Contemporary Arts. Shape's international trainers Barbara Lisicki and Zoe Partington travelled all the way to Japan and Singapore, to take part in panel discussions, deliver Disability Equality Training and lead access audits across a range of arts and cultural venues. In July, they visited the Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janiero, Brazil to offer more training, before heading back to Japan in November to work with Kawasaki City employees for the lead up to 2020 Olympics at Todoroki Athletic Stadium.

If you or your organisation are interested in becoming more accessible with our services, all the relevant information is listed at www.shapearts.org.uk/Pages/News/Category/services

Our 40th Anniversary at National Theatre

To mark our 40th anniversary formally, we launched 'Friends of Shape' at the National Theatre this October. Amongst the guests was our remarkable founder Gina Levete MBE, who is pictured above with our Chief Executive Tony Heaton.

'Shape would not be 40 without the support of the charitable foundations who had the courage to take a gamble and support this organisation', Gina spoke to a joyful crowd of guests, 'Shape would not be 40 without all of the wonderful artists who have walked through its doors. Most important of all, Shape would not be 40 without the inspiring 'can-do' people who have and do make use of Shape. This project has always been surrounded by a smile and never more so than now under the professional, dynamic, kindly leadership of its current director, Tony Heaton and his team. Thank you all.'

The evening also saw a memorable announcement by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate and incoming Chair of Arts Council England, of the recipient of the 2017 Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary - Oliver MacDonald, both of whom are pictured above The announcement was followed by wonderful performances from some of the artists who've been supported by and become friends of Shape over the years - performance artist and Shape trustee Aaron Williamson, poet Owen Lowery, whose most recent poetry collection was supported two years ago by our Unlimited programme, and singer Victoria Oruwari.

We would like to extend our immense thanks to Lisa Burger at the National Theatre for hosting the evening, more information on which (including how to become a Friend of Shape) is on its way early next year - stay tuned!

40th Birthday Bonanza - Artist Postcard Exhibition / Sale at Platform Southwark 

November saw our radical and beautiful 40th Birthday Bonanza at Platform Southwark - an exhibition and sale of art-on-postcards kindly created and donated to us by visual artists, with proceeds going towards our bright and brilliant future activities. We also hosted two free workshops with a focus on creativity and disability, led by Bridget Minamore and Charlotte CHW. We would like to thank all the artists who took part, listed in full at www.shapearts.org.uk/Event/40th-bday-bonanza

We still currently have a few postcards for sale! If you would like to see (and possibly even purchase) them, please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/artist-postcard-sale

Head and shoulders portrait of Tony Heaton smiling behind a microphone

Tony Heaton Steps Down as Shape CEO

Finally, as the year ended, we were sad to announce that our wonderful CEO Tony Heaton OBE is stepping down after 9 years of invaluable and dedicated leadership. We will miss him terribly, but are looking forward to the next chapter in our life as an organisation and are pleased to have Tony continuing as our Chair. Onwards...!

You can read Tony's announcement in full at www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/tony-heaton-steps-down

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by and supported us, attended our events, and wished us well this year. We hope you will follow us into 2017 and beyond, lending your voice to our mission - the full inclusion of disabled people in the arts. Best wishes, and a happy new year, from the Shape team!

Here are some of our memorable moments from 2016...

Tony Heaton, CEO 'Our 40th celebration at the National Theatre and to have Sir Nicolas Serota, the most influential figure in the arts in the UK giving our Keynote speech, and, speaking so positively about his commitment to support Shape within the ACE portfolio of national organisations!'

Jeff Rowlings, Head of Programme, 'At a time when old Rights arguments are having to be strongly reasserted, it’s also good to know that a new generation of talented, confident and ambitious disabled artists is coming through, and staking their claim on the future.'

Georgia Macqueen-Black, Engagement & Marketing Officer - NDACA, 'Shape Arts' presence at the NDACA House of Lords launch event.'  

Sara Dziadik, Programme Coordinator - Artists and Exhibitions '40th Birthday party and Training in Japan (because the Director of the Olympics and Paralympics for Kawasaki City came and was very invested!)'

Isabella Tulloch, Corporate Services & Programme Coordinator 'Being invited into Yinka Shonibare's studio and getting to see his work as part of the panel for shape open 2017'

Ioannis AthanasiouProject Leader - Inspiring Futures, 'Listening to how access to the arts is empowering from the young people at the closing of the event at the Roundhouse'

Looking ahead...

A date to add to your calendar: Ways of Seeing Art, our upcoming 4-day proramme at Tate Modern as part of Tate Exchange! How do you ‘see’ art? How do we describe art to others? Join us for our Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary Shortlist exhibition and a series of workshops led by blind and visually impaired artists to explore audio description of artwork. For full information, please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/Event/tate-exchange-2017

Check out all of our upcoming events at www.shapearts.org.uk/Pages/Events/Category/events

We would, finally, like to thank

  • All of our funders; particularly Arts Council England, Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, British Council, Spirit of 2012, City Bridge Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Our partners on Unlimited, Artsadmin
  • All artists who've generously donated their work, time and endorsement to us
  • Members of the public who have supported us
  • Gallery at 12 in Staffordshire for their ongoing donations and art events
  • The Hospital Club, who kindly awarded us the H Club Foundation 2016 Philanthropy Award
  • Foyle Foundation
  • Everyone who made this an amazing year and to all our supporters, beneficiaries and well wishers

If you need information about our programme, please email: [email protected]

Banner image: Artist Aaron Williamson performs at our 40th Anniversary Event, National Theatre

Following images, in order:

Aaron Williamson - Gold Hearing Trumpet

Still footage from a film of Caglar Kimyoncu, produced during his ARMB residency

2016 Open winner Kate Murdoch with our patron, artist Yinka Shonibare MBE

Shape Gallery auction exhibition / viewing

Lord Melvyn Bragg speaking at the NDACA launch

Stopgap Dance Company performing at Roundhouse, Camden

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis - The Way You Look (at me) Tonight

Shape staff facilitating a DET session in a gallery

A postcard featured in our 40th Birthday Bonanza

Tony Heaton OBE

Shape's team

A man listening to Audio Description at a Shape exhibition

Shape's 40th anniversary roundel