Hello, my name is Leah Jones I am 37 years old. I live in the North West of England where I am the director of Positive You, an organisation that aims to empower learning disabled people to have good confidence and self-esteem through art. As well as running Positive You, I am also a self-advocate and a curator who just happens to have a learning disability and Down Syndrome.
This is the first of a blog series that I am going to write with the support of my facilitator Jade French. I want to share that I am a curator who has a learning disability, and in these blogs I am going to show you how I curate. That’s right – you’ll get the inside scoop! I use the ‘inclusive curating’ method which I helped to devise with Jade. This breaks curating down into a series of five steps: research, the big idea, acquiring artwork, interpretation and installation and exhibition, making the job more accessible to me.
But first, a little about who I am and what I do. I first began curating exhibitions in 2016 where I worked with four other learning disabled people to curate ‘Auto Agents’ at Bluecoat Centre for Contemporary Art. This show looked at independence and autonomy and what these ideas mean to artists, curators and disabled people. My favourite part about being a curator was collaborating with artists and seeing our vision come to life. It’s a very special job. Since then, I have been curating shows on my own as a different way to be a self-advocate.
Last year in 2019, I curated ‘Recipe for a Good Life’ which questioned what a ‘good life’ means to self-advocates and people with additional needs. This exhibition proved really popular and was featured on North West Tonight, Made In Liverpool TV, and BBC radio. I also spoke about this exhibition at British Museum’s National Conference programme with Jade.
I haven’t met many other disabled curators and even fewer who have learning disabilities. I am passionate that learning disabled people have much to contribute to arts and culture, while opportunities to be an artist are vital, we also need opportunities to curators, commissioners and cultural leaders too.
So, I hope by sharing how I curate, others will gain practical advice and inspiration. In my next blog, I will share with you my ‘research’ for my upcoming show ‘Edgeworkers’ that will open at The Brindley next May. Following this, will be more posts as the show develops.