Shape is a disability-led arts organisation, established over 37 years ago.
Shape is founded on the principle that all disabled people should have the opportunity to participate fully in arts and culture; our vision is that of an inspiring and inclusive arts sector that is accessible to all.
In order to achieve this, we develop opportunities for disabled artists at all stages of their career - we train cultural institutions to be more open to disabled people, and we run participatory arts and development programmes. The following are just some of the opportunities and projects currently delivered by Shape:
1. Getting into the arts: Inspiring Futures
Finding your feet in the creative industries can be notoriously difficult - our Inspiring Futures programme supports young disabled people take the next step in their creative career. We run workshops with arts professionals, provide mentoring opportunities and advisory sessions, all encouraging young participants to build their confidence in accessing and engaging in the arts.
2. Peer support and skill development: Networking events
Shape’s new quarterly Artist Networking events are an accessible open forum for artists to meet, discuss their current practice, and develop new ideas and partnerships. These events encourage peer mentoring, and critical debate amongst disabled and non-disabled artists.
3. Broadening the debate: The Shape Open
Currently in its third year, Shape Open is an annual call-out for both disabled and non-disabled artists to submit work of any medium in response to a disability-focused theme – for 2014, the theme was '[in]visible'. Every year, this fully inclusive exhibition receives a refreshing variety of responses, each questioning our perceptions of disability.
Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), internationally renowned artist and Shape Open patron, has described the Shape Open as “a fantastic platform for disabled artists to show their work. Such exhibitions offer great opportunities for artists to be discovered by institutions and larger audiences."
4. Breaking into mainstream arts and cultural venues: Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary
Established in memory of sculptor Adam Reynolds, the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary opens doors for a mid-career disabled artist, offering a three month residency at some of the UK’s best-known galleries and cultural institutions. Shape is delighted to be collaborating with the Victoria & Albert Museum and The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design for the 2014/5 Bursary. We’re excited to see the results!
Sir Antony Gormley, OBE, Sculptor and patron of the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, commented on the award;
"Adam was inspirational as an artist and a man - seeing his disability as a strength. This bursary is the most practical and powerful way to continue doing what Adam did to make the possible palpable."
5. Supporting a sustainable cultural shift: Unlimited
Between 2014 and 2016 Shape are delivering the latest three year commissioning programme of Unlimited alongside our partners Artsadmin and Senior Producer Jo Verrent. Unlimited was at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, celebrating the work of disabled artists on an unprecedented scale.
Unlimited not only helps disabled artists develop their practice and encourages the development of new relationships and collaborations with producers, venues and promoters, but also increases audiences to the work. Through wider digital distribution and touring up to an international level Unlimited is encouraging a sustainable cultural shift in the way work by disabled artists is seen and promoted.
6. Conserving and sharing the heritage: National Disability Arts Collection Archive (NDACA)
The rich history of the Disability Arts Movement is still relatively unknown to many people - NDACA intends to rectify this. It will create an important resource for disabled people to explore their own heritage, and bring non-disabled people closer to the artistic and political struggles disabled people have faced over the last 30 years.
Led by Shape, the NDACA Network comprises a number of organisations working in partnership, including Buckinghamshire New University; DadaFest; Disability Arts Online; Graeae Theatre Company; Holton Lee; The Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) and Zinc. Together, this partnership unites expertise in disability arts, heritage, education, theatre, community arts, moving image and web development.
Through an interactive website and catalogue, the collection will be preserved and made accessible to artists, academics and the general public.
Find out more about Shape's work and how you can get involved by taking a look at their website