JZH: You work at Shape Arts. What is Shape to you?
IT: Shape Arts is a leading disability arts organisation and charity that works to support and raise the profile of disabled artists and disability arts. For me Shape feels a bit like a big family; I’ve worked at Shape for just over three years now and worked my way up from starting out as a volunteer at the Stratford pop-up gallery, then I became an Exhibitions Intern, I then became maternity cover for Corporate Services and PA to our previous CEO Tony Heaton, and then I became a Programme Coordinator and member of the Unlimited team! All these roles have taught me different things, but mainly they’ve enabled me to gain so much knowledge about how we work towards removing disabling barriers in the arts, which Shape has been doing for 41 years.
So what exactly is your particular role at Shape now?
I am lead on the Shape Open, which is Shape’s annual exhibition of artwork by disabled and non-disabled artists created in response to a disability-centred theme. The Open creates an 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. I also work within the Unlimited team, and I am Key Contact for a selection of our newest arts commissions, as well as being Music and Festival Lead for the whole programme.
What is Unlimited to you?
Unlimited is a commissioning programme that has given so many projects the support and funds to develop and the opportunity to reach new audiences, particularly with its connection to the Unlimited festivals run by our partners Southbank Centre in London and, last year, Tramway in Glasgow.
How would you say Unlimited has changed over the last few years?
Well, for me at least, Unlimited just keeps getting bigger and bigger – we commissioned 10 artists in the 2015 round, and we’ve just commissioned 24 artists in this current round! It is so exciting to see more and more great work being recognised and being funded, and to witness Unlimited really influencing the sector.
What are your Unlimited highlights and favourite commissions?
One of my favourite commissions of the last round was Jack Dean’s Grandad and the Machine, which was both so poignant and so funny – at times it made me cry with laughter. Another favourite would have to be Noëmi Lakmaier’s durational performance Cherophobia which was truly beautiful to watch.
How do you see Unlimited and, by extension, perceptions of disability changing?
Unlimited is partnering with so many different organisation and projects, and I think this is helping to raise the level of awareness that is needed in ‘mainstream’ culture. The audience for the Unlimited commissions is continuously developing and growing wider, and that’s fantastic because it means perceptions of disability are developing along with it.