Shape Arts is delighted to be among the new and largest ever tranche of 831 organisations included in Arts Council England’s 2018 - 2022 National Portfolio. We would like thank Arts Council England for their continued investment in Shape.

For the last 40 years, Shape has played an integral role in making the arts and cultural sector more accessible and inclusive for disabled people, with our work engaging users and audiences in the millions.

This is an achievement which benefits everyone, through the way that organisations have become more innovative and adaptive to audience needs, to how they have diversified their artistic programmes to include a wider and richer pool of exciting talent.

Sir Nicholas Serota congratulates ARMB 2016/17 winner Oliver Macdonald

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, congratulates 2017 ARMB winner Oliver MacDonald

Over the last decade we have accelerated our growth and broadened our reach significantly, bringing into our portfolio of groundbreaking creative projects Unlimited and the National Disability Art Collection and Archive (NDACA), as well as developing key initiatives like the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018.  

Each year we support over a hundred disabled artists in their careers, working innovatively to ensure that some of the best and boldest artistic talent is able to fulfil their potential. Our pop up exhibition at the Shape Gallery in 2013, for example, hosted one of the largest ever exhibitions of work solely by disabled artists, and in developing and loaning the Shape Collection of art we aim to raise the profile of disabled artists across the UK and overseas. A number of Shape Collection works were shown at the Art of the Lived Experiment exhibition at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids Michigan, in 2015,  attracting audiences of over 43,000 people. At the same time, we promote best practice in inclusion and access to give organisations the confidence and knowledge they need to bring other disabled creatives into their programmes in the future. Our work as a founding associate of Tate Exchange underlines the value of this dual approach.  

Some of our recent highlights and achievements include:

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary (ARMB)

Now celebrating its 10th year, our prestigious flagship art award has enabled talented, mid-career disabled artists to develop their practice and widen their influence in a variety of leading galleries, including Turner Contemporary, Margate, The V&A, London, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, BALTIC, Gateshead, Camden Arts Centre, London, and Spike Island, Bristol.

Close-up of people takling in a gallery room, with a brightly-coloured painting of a man hanging on the wall behind them

The 2017 ARMB Shortlist exhibition at Artlink Hull

ARMB alumni Oliver MacDonald, Caglar Kimyoncu, Carmen Papalia, Aaron MacPeake, Simon Raven, Caroline Cardus, Aaron Williamson, Sally Booth and Noëmi Lakmaier have since gone on to win commissions and awards that have global as well as UK-wide impact.

We’d like to express particular thanks to Garfield Weston Foundation and Foyle Foundation for their generous support of the ARMB.

Shape Open

In the 6 years since its inception, the Open has become a key fixture in the UK exhibitions calendar. Supported by Patron, acclaimed artist, and ex-Shape employee Yinka Shonibare MBE, Shape’s annual Open invites both disabled and non-disabled artists to submit artwork relating to a disability-focussed theme, with around 30 artists selected and exhibited each year. A wider network of artists and contributors – particularly the Open alumni – are invited to come together during the exhibition period and take part in a set of talks, critiques and events that resonate with that year’s theme. The Open provides a unique opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists to raise their profile while allowing established artists taking part to show their work alongside new and fresh perspectives that they may not ordinarily encounter.

A group of people crowded around an artwork on a plinth in a large, open, modern gallery space

Shape Open Patron Yinka Shonibare MBE and Shape Chair Tony Heaton OBE view work at the 2017 Shape Open

Many Shape Open exhibiting artists, such as Jason Wilsher-Mills and James Lake, have been further supported by Shape through artist residencies, commissions and other opportunities. 2015/16 People’s Choice winner Jack Haslam, the best-selling artist at our pop-up gallery at Westfield Stratford, has been shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s 2017 Wildlife Artist of the Year prize. Katharine Araniello, Juan delGado and Rachel Gadsden have gone on to win Unlimited commissions among their many achievements.  

Shape Access Consultancy & Training

Over the last decade, our access consultancy and training services have reached over 300 arts and cultural organisations, and over 2,000 arts sector workers and volunteers. Through a flexible combination of training sessions, workshops and seminars, we cater for the bespoke needs of organisations who want to become more diverse and inclusive. Our formal access auditing services support organisations going through physical as well as strategic developments to ensure they are accessible to all people, including disabled people; our work can involve reviewing policies, working practices, attitudes and communications, as well as formally auditing premises, and we work with clients at every stage of their project, from concept through to implementation stages. To make an enquiry or add your organisation to our ever-growing client list please contact us via [email protected] 

Shape Arts training in Japan, 2016


In recent years we have developed close links with arts organisations across Asia, the Americas and Europe, working in partnership with the British Council. Through a variety of programmes, we ensure that high quality artistic activity and the promotion of inclusive practices go hand in hand as we show how we have supported disabled people in the UK cultural sector, and learn from overseas partners about the challenges and opportunities they face in promoting better inclusion and equality in their own countries. We have delivered access training to over a hundred organisations in Japan, Singapore, Mexico and Brazil, and in Doha, Qatar, we produced and curated the Ilham exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art as part of a large scale conference, ‘Definitely Able’. During this time, with British Council support, Shape artists undertook a residency exploring disability, Islamic art, and the relationships between the two. In Europe we have led on creative interventions and talks at the Venice Biennale as well as in Berlin, Paris and other major hubs of life and culture.  

Illham exhibition in Doha, Qatar.

Ilham exhibition in Doha, Qatar

Shape Youth

Each year we work with up to 200 young disabled people, providing opportunities to improve engagement with creative activity, to visit or explore cultural venues, and embark upon learning pathways that work to improve their confidence, give them a stronger sense of self, voice and direction. Working in close partnership with leading organisations such as National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Camden Roundhouse, A New Direction, CC Skills, Trinity College and many others, including schools and colleges across London, we deliver an accessible and engaging programme that has enabled hundreds of young disabled people to connect with disabled role models, gain awards and qualifications, and  take part in events, performances,  exhibitions, forums and conferences where they can explore the full richness and opportunity offered by the UK’s arts and creative sector.     

Corali dancer DJ striking a pose before a theatre audience

Dancer DJ performing at Roundhouse, Camden for Shape's "Inspiring Futures: The Event"

National Disability Art Collection and Archive (NDACA)

NDACA is currently bringing to life the heritage and rich history of the Disability Arts Movement. The Disability Arts Movement is a heritage story that began in the late 1970s and still flourishes today; it involves disabled creatives, activists, their allies and disability arts organisations all over the UK, who campaigned and broke barriers to make real change for disabled people.

Along the way to achieving justice and rights, disabled people made the great art, music and culture that chronicles the Disability Arts Movement. Change did happen with the Disability Discrimination Act being passed through Parliament in 1995.

The £1million NDACA project will provide an important resource for disabled people to realise their own heritage and bring non-disabled people closer to the barriers of a disabling world.  April 2018 sees the launch of NDACA’s brand new website, a series of oral history films, an online catalogue of over 2000 images, interactive learning resources, opportunities for a new generation of disabled artists, and more!

A large metal sculpture on the side of a building in the shape of an abstract number 4 which also looks like a wheelchair racerA large metal sculpture on the side of a building in the shape of an abstract number 4 which also looks like a wheelchair racerThe NDACA VanNScan crew group photo.

The NDACA crew group photo

Buckinghamshire New University will host NDACA’s uniquely accessible research facilities, providing a space to study the archive in even more depth. NDACA is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Read our NDACA blogs to find out more.


Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that aims to embed work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. Unlimited has been delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin since 2013, and is funded from 2016-20 by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, British Council and Spirit of 2012.

Noëmi Lakmaier's "Cherophobia", an Unlimited commission

Following the success of the Unlimited project at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Unlimited commissioning programme has awarded over £1.8 million to ambitious disabled artists working in theatre, visual arts, literature and music. Between 2013-16, these commissions resulted in 2,323 performance and exhibition days, which were seen by 132,059 people.

Read ‘What’s Changed? 2013-16‘ to see a snapshot of what Unlimited has achieved, and the impact it has had on the sector, over this time.


For more information about Shape’s programme, or to talk to one of the team, please email [email protected] or call 0207 424 7330. To stay up-to-date with our news, opportunities and events, sign up to our monthly e-newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Banner image: Artist and ARMB recipient Aaron MacPeake leading a workshop as part of Shape's Tate Exchange programme "Ways of Seeing Art"