Saturday, March 24, 2018

Arts training and employment & the ndis



"Once my art is hanging on the gallery wall
my disability becomes invisible."

Judith Baker, 2014

Judith is currently the sectary of the Ipswich Art Society.  She has been involved is the Ipswich Arts Community for over 30 years.  She is an author, poet and visual artists living with disability.  When it comes to the arts in Ipswich, Judy's disability has proven no barrier. 

Judy lives in the beautiful historical community in Rosewood.  I first meet her when she was researching her book 'Babies of Walloon'. The poem was penned by Henri Lawson, and is the story of two sisters who tragically drowned in a dam on the family's property.

Before then she was an established visual artists who had been exhibiting her artwork in local art show societies across the Lockyer Valera and Ipswich region.  Our arts community and the Rosewood community are richer for her decatition to the arts. 

In 2012 I was selected to be part of the Leaders For Tomorrow Program, as part of my program I want to mentor others living with disabilities to take leadership roles.  I was then the Pristant of Community Access Transitional Services, but considered myself to live, work and play in mainstream society.

I had very little contact with other people with disabilities apart from a few close firends I'd meet at various stages in my life. Art become a way to connect with the disability community at a personal level.


A very early piece of my artwork

Supported by Access Arts I founded ArtISability, my intend was to created a professional development program to foster the development of visual artists living with disabilities.  At the time I was a writer that enjoyed doodling and new little about that art world or the Ipswich art community. However I new Judy and she had already been teaching art so naturally she was the first person I shared my vision with.

ArtISability began with a team that was disability lead from its incepition.  However six years later I sit here struggling to assist the Ipswich community that people with disabilities can work as professional artist's and how artwork belongs on the walls of galleries across Australia. I know this possibility, have just hosted my third solo exhibition.


My Cat Prints on exhibit at
Aspire Gallery in Brisbane.

I also come back to what Judith told the first intake of artists in the ArtISability program.  One hung there is no indication of my disability.  I have also been exhibiting along side one of the participants in the ArtISability Program another artists living with disability to join the ranks of emerging artists in the Ipswich region. 


Larry Stummer 2017



Intitally the program was successful and Larry's growth shows that, but too quickly I found ArtISability was connected to the disability sector not the Arts Community, I feel the last three years has been in no man's land, many believe when it comes to art is best fits Art for Well being when it comes to people with disabilities. 

The introduction of the ndis (National Disability Insurance Scheme) was to support people and their families to achieve their goals and for an professional artists that is to sell their artwork.  However we all know that being an artists has never been considered a legitimate career. 

I wasn't allowed to take art at school because it was never going to help me get a job.  Work in the arts industry is the only paid employment I ever had. However if I did not have my dsp because my epilepsy is uncontroled by medication I may of needed a 'day job' to put food on the table. 


Despite over 60% of people living witg disabilites shown an active interest in the creative arts: music; dance; performace; writing and the visual artist, their are only a few artists living with disabilities who the Australia Artbank. Across the arts industry artist with disabilities earn 41% less than their peers. 

Yet when I was working on my ndis plan I was asked what do I need to live a life that reflected my peers?  Equal pay would be a start.  The disability sector for all it recitic devaules the contribution of those living with disability.  I have worked in one organization where I was not paid because I had my dsp, my degree, my skills, knowledge and fifteen years on boards of disability support agency were worthless in terms of the Australia dollar.

The local council sees me as a leader in the arts and disability sector and yet the community skills struggles with what I have to offer simply because I think artists regardless of their disabilities should follow the same industry code of practice.  This is a struggle that those who work in the arts and disability sector have across Australian although I claim my job is tougher than other state representatives on the National Support Studio Network.



In terms of employment, wages and leadership I do not feel people living with disabilities have the same opportunities as those in other states.  It is one thing to set employment targets and representative numbers for those with disabilities it is another to attract suitable candidates to the positions. 

We struggle in the arts and disability sector because so few people with disabilities have received the skills training needed at national leadership level.  We both need the administrative experience and being practise artists to be qualify for our roles even in voluntary roles.  Don't get me wrong, this is not about my pay.  Pay me by putting the artwork of artists with disabilities on gallery walls.

If were fairdumk  disability lead leadership in this industry them we need to see the ndis assisting people to be trained.  My desire is to see a program to support artists with disability to work as professionals, trying to get funding from that is a pipe dream.  

I could take the easy road and run art 4 well being class; go study art threaphy or work for a disability support organizations, but none of these enable me to achieve my passion, my dream to see work by artists with a disability hanging in the national gallery.  I believe my first step is to get the ndia (outside of Ipswich) to recognized the production of artwork as employment.

Just wait until I get to the Arts and Disability Meeting Place in September so training for artists with disability can be put on the national agenda.

Yep! Still aiming for the stars!


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