Banner image: still from Ker Wallwork's 'Contact.' Ker was the first Emergent bursary and residency recipient in 2022. Image courtesy of the artist.

Why Emergent, and why now?

Working to the Social Model of Disability, we tend to focus on the external barriers which disabled creatives face.

Our research into the issues faced by emerging disabled creatives identifies barriers in this order, starting with the most significant:

  1. Isolation caused by:
    - lack of finance (loss of work or benefits)
    - facing various forms of disability oppression
    - geographical limitations

  2. This overlaps with blocks to progress, caused by:
    - limited styles of access in organisations
    - lack of any peer support, feedback or critique sessions
    - communication issues
    - inaccessible call-outs or application processes
    - lack of understanding of being invisibly disabled
    - a need for mentors/role models
    - lack of accessible, affordable studio space

  3. Since the pandemic, we know that some of these barriers have worsened in terms of the lack of availability of facilities and support, even if in certain other areas, people found sources of online support through new networks and relationships (community building).

  4. We know too that the impact of these barriers has a complex and deep link with internal barriers, making them entwined in a way which sets disabled creatives back even further. For this reason disabled creatives may take many years to reach the same career milestones as those not impacted by disabling barriers.

    Some of the internal barriers identified by early stage disabled artists include (in order of significance, as stated by the artists we polled):
    -low self confidence/ self esteem
    -finding the social landscape difficult to negotiate
    - negative or poor mental health
    - struggling to effectively describe work
    - feeling people don’t take them/ their work seriously
    - lacking a voice
    - needing support to market myself
    - withdrawal, professional isolation
    - having a sense of loss, of community, network and visibility.

By weaving together a blend of technical and mentoring support, as well as widening networks, we believe that the particular kind of support we can offer emerging disabled artists will form something of a template for progression in the arts for those facing barriers.
Our research and discussions indicate that this programme is both necessary and timely to stem, and in some cases reverse, some of the devastation caused by the pandemic in vulnerable communities, whilst at the same time championing the talent of emerging practitioners who will become the future face of the arts.

We look forward to sharing more news and developments as the pilot year unfolds.

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