ArchivePast Exhibitions and Art Projects

Disability Arts in the Mainstream


DASH are instigators and initiators of the commissioning of new work by Disabled visual artists within mainstream galleries since 2009, enabling Disabled artists to create new work and collaborate with new institutions.

In collaboration, we seek to commission work by leading national and international disabled artists, examining the way in which diversity is an intrinsic part of the creative process and enabling these artists and venues to transcend barriers.

In 2009, DASH undertook a survey of UK galleries to establish a baseline on how Disability Arts and Disabled Artists were exhibited in mainstream museums and galleries in response to the views expressed by numerous disabled artists about the lack of representation of Disability Arts in these venues. Of the 1100 galleries asked to take part, many did not hold the information we needed, or said it was not relevant to their gallery, or simply did not respond. In fact only seven said that they had shown work by Disabled Artists since 2000.

In response to this DASH created a pilot project called ‘Outside IN’, partnering with New Art Gallery Walsall, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Oriel Davies, to commission  three new works by disabled artists. The artists were sean burn, The Disabled Avant Garde and Noëmi Lakmaier. As well as the commissioning and creation of new work by Disabled Artists, the programme also explored how these organisations could adapt and respond to the needs of working with Disabled Artists

To reflect on the success of the pilot project,  DASH changed the name of the project to ‘IN’,  IN 2012. ‘IN’ was an ambitious project, commissioning five new works by disabled artists, with five new partners:

Sound Canvas

The first ‘IN’ commission was, Zoe Partington’s Sound Canvas, which won a 2013 Jodi Award ,a Commendation for Innovation. The multi-sensory exhibition created by artist Zoe Partington in collaboration with sound artists Andrej Bako, uses sensors and digital technology to enable visitors to access art in an innovative way.

Initially shown at The Public , on its closure, Sound Canvas began an impromptu touring exhibition, visiting The Hive in Shrewsbury, Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindrod Wells, The Courtyard in Hereford and mac Birmingham.

Zoe Partington has recently been awarded an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to make Sound Canvas II.

Walls with Wounds

Dale Vn Marshall, Walls with Wounds, was the second commission in partnership with the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Marshall’s stunning, evocative work is inspired by a dramatic memories, each one representing a healing journey through physical destruction and repair. H

The exhibition was seen by over 2500 visitors.  In addition to the exhibition Marshall and The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum  offered an artists talk and workshops in mark making techniques, the workshops were so popular additional dates were added.


The third commission to be realised was a curatorial commission, in partnership with mac Birmingham, Noëmi Lakmaier presented ‘Disrupted’ a group exhibition that was conceived for mac birmingham to directly respond to, and interact with, the arts centre venue, the building and its audiences. The exhibition at mac birmingham was on show between Saturday 14th March and Sunday 3rd May 2015.

Curated by Noemi Lakmaier during her year-long residency at mac, the exhibition explored the sense of awkwardness such encounters can bring, and the unique experiences and unexpected insights that can emerge from them.

Disrupted brought together both established and emerging artists working in the realm of Disability Arts, including the Swedish performance artist Anna Berntdson, London-based artist and activist The Vacuum Cleaner, Martin O’Brien and up and coming sculptor Anna Smith from Wolverhampton.

In Conversation with the Past

In April 2014 disabled artist-filmmaker Nicola Lane was commissioned by DASH and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create a film reflecting on the life of deaf Romany Bill Lock, who lived and worked in and around the villages of Clun and Bishop’s Castle in South Shropshire.

At the film’s premiere in Clun, a small Shropshire village near the Welsh border, 140 people came to see the film, bringing with them photos and fond memories of Bill.  The film is planned to be shown in small museums in Shropshire and Film Festivals worldwide.

Almost a Score

International artist Christine Sun Kim was the last, but certainly not least, of the five IN commissions – with a residency at Arnolfini in Bristol. Christine’s exhibition was shown between 20th March and 5th May 2015.

During her residency in Bristol, Kim created a new film installation work in Arnolfini’s intimate Dark Studio exploring the themes of language, sound and silence. This was the first time that the artist had created a film work of this size and in a residency setting.

The residency and exhibition was complemented by a performance lecture with the artist and a specialist panel discussion, focused on the relationships between language, sound and listening, followed by an evening showcase of performative works that were inspired by the themes discussed.

The work was successful in bringing new audiences, especially those from the deaf community, to Arnolfini.

Again the purpose of IN was to create innovative and intriguing new works by Disabled Artists but also cemented a developing relationship between the galleries and disabled artists, creating a knowledge sharing between curators and artist.

The three year project culminated with a symposium at mac birmingham called Awkward Bastards, exploring the creative case for diversity, with speakers representing Disability Arts, LGBT artists and the Black Arts movement.

“Recognising their considerable expertise, leadership and track record in the realm of disability arts, DASH’s support is a great enabler. They play an integral role in bringing diversity in professional practice to this organisation and our audiences, and setting the bar for excellence in this arena.”

Craig Ashley mac birmingham


“It is really great to see an opportunity for a Disabled curator. I have felt for a long time that this was overdue and that establishing Disabled curators is one of the most important steps to bringing Disability Arts and Disabled artists into the mainstream and keeping them there.”

Noëmi Lakmaier commissioned curator mac birmingham

“Working with DASH has allowed the Herbert to recommit to accessibility in a time when all areas of work are being squeezed because of lack of money or time. Their supporting style is open, relaxed and non-judgemental which is vital when addressing accessibility issues.”

Jess Pinson The Herbert

INSIDE 2016-2018

Inside is the new  major development from our previous programmes, Outside IN (2009-12) and IN (2012-15). The scale and scope will be much broader, working with Museums and Libraries as well as Galleries to widen the scope of commissioned opportunities for disabled artists and for more audiences to engage with the work.

Applications are open to galleries, museums, archives and libraries to apply to be an INSIDE partner, until 5pm on Friday 16th October 2015.

There will be 3 commissioning venues across the Midlands. Each venue will have a partner venue, which will mean that the commissioned work will be seen in 6 settings.

We will look favourably on applications where the commissioning or partner venue is based in an area of low arts engagement.

The aims of Inside are:

  • To change the culture of Galleries, Museums and Libraries through a practical partnership with DASH.
  • To work with a number of Galleries, Museums and Libraries across the Midlands.
  • To increase the number of Disabled and Deaf artists exhibiting and/or developing curatorial skills in mainstream Galleries, Museums and Libraries.
  • To promote and develop Disabled and Deaf People as an audience, and as participants in the Visual Arts.

We will achieve these aims by offering three commissions each for £7000:

  • One to a mainstream Gallery to select a Disabled artist to ‘exhibit’ or select a Disabled artist as a curator, who will develop an exhibition or exhibitions.
  • One to a Museum to select a Disabled artist to work with their collection/audience/archive.
  • One to a Library to select


More information and the application form can be found at


Other links

Leave a Reply