If you are an artist living with disability, this could be the beginning of an exciting year. The Australia Council for the Arts is currently seeking applications for its new Artists with Disability Program. Grants of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for groups are available. It is the first time our national arts funding and advisory body has created a program dedicated to supporting artists with disability.
Opportunities for artists and groups
Morwenna Collett is the Australia Council’s Disability Coordinator. She says in the past, very few artists with disability have applied for funding from the Council. This means the number who have received any money is quite low. Yet Morwenna knows the quality of work being made by artists with disability across Australia.
In many cases that work is of a really excellent standard and something that we’d be interested in supporting, she says.
Individuals interested in applying for this program need to identify themselves as an artist with disability. Groups must be led by at least one artist with disability.
Morwenna expects applications will come from both emerging and established artists. She hopes the program will encourage more people to see the Australia Council as an organisation they can approach.
The Artists with Disability Program is certain to produce some outstanding art. Yet it is likely to have other outcomes too. The Australia Council is using this program to investigate and refine its accessibility practices. Artists can, for instance, obtain information and submit their applications in whatever format suits them best.
We’ve got a team of people working on this program in a number of different program offices, Morwenna explains.
So there’ll be quite a lot of contact with applicants to meet the requirements or needs that they will have.
Whether or not the Artists with Disability Program will continue beyond 2014 is unclear, but Morwenna is hopeful.
My plan is to make sure that we show there’s a really strong demand for this program, she says.
If we get, for example, a very high number of applications and high quality applications, then I guess that would give us a case to show that it is needed and there may be a need to continue running it.
However, she acknowledges other possibilities could occur. This might include ensuring that better accessibility is built into all funding programs in coming years. Such a move would ensure the talents of all artists are included in Australia Council planning and consideration.
Funding good art
As it is, a program like this inevitably raises questions about whether there should be dedicated funding for artists with disability. Some people may, for instance, view the Artists with Disability Program as special or exclusive treatment.
For Morwenna, such arguments are irrelevant.
Basically, at the end of the day, we want to fund good art, she says.
And we’ll certainly be doing this through this program.
Applications for the Artists with Disability Program close on 3 March 2014. A live question and answer session about the program will be held online on the Australia Council’s Facebook page on Friday 24 January from 4 to 5pm AEDST.