Disability Arts Online announces a new strand of Covid Commissions


On 20 March Disability Arts Online responded to the unprecedented situation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, with the announcement of a commissions pot for disabled artists. Today we are excited to announce the full list of commissioned artists and works.

A collage of 5 images including two artist portraits presented side by side

We knew the crisis would badly impact on our communities, adversely affecting both disabled people and the self-employed and received over 160 applications for the three strands: A Day In The Life Of An Artist, Open Commissions and Artists Presentations.

In choosing which pitches to take forward we carefully considered the range of art forms and diversity of applications. We had to make some difficult decisions due to the quality of the ideas but the team were clear that we wanted to commission variety and we wanted to commission as wide a range of voices as possible within the limitations of a budget of £8000, which effectively has covered 30 applications.

Trish Wheatley, DAO CEO said:

“We wanted to use this opportunity as a way of reaching out beyond the artists we know and engage with on an ongoing basis. Nearly half of the artists we will be producing and presenting over the coming months were previously unknown to us. We wanted to reflect diversity and a broad overview of artform through our Covid commissions and are very excited at the potential for making connections this affords. We’re very aware of just how much disabled people are being left out of conversations in the current political climate and see this as a way of bringing people together online. Disability Arts Online has supported a network of communities for a long time now, and we’re not going away. How we present the voices of disabled artists is now as important as ever.”

Colin Hambrook, DAO editor added:

“The coming months will see Disability Arts Online producing a broad span of artist presentations and open commissions. A few relate specifically to the current crisis, but only a few. The majority of the applications that came in were overwhelmingly linked to the pandemic and we felt the need to strike a balance, so picked out what we considered to be some of the most imaginative approaches.”

A white individual with short ginger hair and beard. They have red thick rimmed glasses and are wearing green glittery eye shadow and pink lipstick. They are wearing a silver coat and a black t shirt.

Jamie Hale

Disability Arts Online begins its series of fortnightly talks and presentations this coming Wednesday 27th May at 3pm with Jamie Hale’s ‘Borrowing Time: Reading AIDS literature in a time of pandemic’.

Hale has researched the chroniclers of the era when the AIDS crisis hit the western world from the late 1980s into the 1990s and reflects with compassion on what can be learnt to inform our current situation.

Survival through the current crisis is dependant on finding ways of supporting each other. Hale’s observations will engage with the critical ways that LGBTQIA+ culture has done just that, in a 30 minute captioned artist talk, followed by a question and answer session held through a subtitled zoom conversation.

Look out for announcements in our listings and social media as Disability Arts Online embarks on a range of events and online content from private plays, dark humour and perverse verse, an exploration of disabled first-wave feminists, the subversive history of collage, the role of sight and the hierarchy of the senses in poetic vision, living with autism as a professional working in a socially active industry, a demonstration of the complexities of a cherished electric violin, the mythical sounds of the Dragon Cello, a demonstration of the uses of spray paints and stencils in a bid to save lives, BSL poetry, an intimate glimpse into the inner world of a portrait painter, an online exhibition of #Portraits4PPE, an insight into visually impaired art dealership Noble Sage Art, the radical potential of integrated Audio Description and the future of the arts, to name some of the commissions.

Artist Presentations

a series of seven portraits of artists

The Artists’ Presentations will be running every other Wednesday at 3pm lasting around 30 minutes, followed by a live Q&A element. They will be available to watch via Disability Arts Online’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Each talk will be captioned. We currently don’t have the budget to BSL interpret the talks, but we are seeking additional funding to support this.

Wednesday 10 June. Jana Manuelpillai: Insight into The Noble Sage
In this video, Jana Manuelpillai, Director of The Noble Sage Art Collection, an art dealership specialising in Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani contemporary art, discusses how he chooses work, shares tips for artists and describes how his own disability impacts and drives his art collection.

Wednesday 24 June. Liz Bentley: Psychotherapist by Day/Comedian by Night
Liz Bentley talks about her life as a therapist, writer and performer. She explores how self-isolating is affecting her work, life and creativity. From multiple boyfriends, multiple sclerosis and blogging about Tesco delivery men – expect rawness, honesty, dark humour and perverse verse.

Full list of Artists’ Presentations:

Sasha Callaghan: Cut. Paste. Layer. Cut. Paste. Layer. Attach: The Subversive History of Collage

Ellen Renton: Poetic Vision

Chas Deswiet: The Electric Violin

Verity Lane: Dyslexia, Language, Music & Art

Amelia Cavallo: The Radical Potential of Integrated Audio Description

Tom Chimiak: Working with Autism

Holly Norcop: #MediaStorm

Open Commissions

The Open Commissions don’t follow a set a format, some will be time-based ‘events’ others will be digital commissions including a new podcast series, films, private plays, a sound-art piece and BSL poetry.

The full list of commissioned artists and works are:

Vince Laws: Art Activism Saves Lives. Video work, Vince Laws, talks text art, visual poetry, and protest art, and gives a quick demo using spray paints and stencils.

Steven Fraser: Private Plays. The audience read the performance script to themselves and the illustrations and location spark the imagination.

Jon Adams: ‘meta-morphs’. Crowd-sourced images of people self-isolating transformed digitally.

Elizabeth & Owen Tooth: A Room Of One’s Own. This film is a tiny, ornate delicacy offering viewers a glimpse into portrait painter, Elizabeth Tooth’s studio, process and inner world.

Vilma Jackson: Unseen. Filmed BSL poem exploring parallels of isolation experienced by the Deaf community and coronavirus-imposed isolation.

WhatstheBigMistry (Priya Mistry): Glitter & Guilds. Micro-films and a panel discussion from very different exciting maker-doer-arty folk on how they have practically re-imagined alternative structures for living, working, staying alive and being less lonely.

Lady Kitt: #Portraits4PPE. An online exhibition and open call out for artists to make portraits of people doing extraordinary things (at work, at home, in their community) to help others deal with the many repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jo-Anne Cox: Defiant Journey – Make Your Mark! Online workshop where you can respond in realtime in any medium you wish to the live, improvised sounds of the Dragon Cello.

Sop: The Den #1. A sonic trip at dawn to the ‘den’. Through the woods, past ‘rother’ bench, mutterings on being an ‘extremely vulnerable person’, grief, yearning, the power of nature, camouflage and the earth, always earth.

Julie Farrell: Re-Structuring the Arts – What Happens After Covid-19. A panel of artists and thinkers discuss the future of the arts, considering the means by which access and inclusivity can be prioritised in our culture as we move forward from this pandemic.

Louise Page: New Women. Fictionalised podcast series which interweaves the stories of disabled first-wave feminists Rosa May Billinghurst, Helen Keller and Mabel Normand.

Vici Wreford-Sinnott: The Great British Stage Swindle. A playwriting workshop and discussion with mid-career disabled playwrights, exploring the rich, powerful, dark, funny, satirical cultural stories we all have to tell.

Rachel Gadsden: Deluge. Drawings, paintings and an animation responding and reflecting upon current physical & psychological issues of displacement, isolation, the Covid-19 pandemic, immunology and the need to remain ever hopeful. Will include a live art/sound performance in collaboration with composer Freddie Meyers, violinist Emily Earl and sign performer Stacey Stockwell. The process will be diarised on the DAO blogs.

A Day In the Life of an Artist

Continuing our A Day In The Life Of An Artist series, artists across disciplines will give an insight into their day-to-day working practices, some in written form, others via photo stories or videos. Full list of commissioned artists: Leo Giovanni, Dolly Sen, Sonia Boue, Pete Carr, Daniella Valz-gen, Sophie Fretwell, Calum Perrin, Sahera Khan, Kate Rolison.