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International examples of access to the arts

This page provides links to research and articles about arts and community development, and accessible arts practice. If you have read an interesting article, you may like to email us so we can post it on this webpage.

Arts in communities

Six creative ways artists can improve communities

From Community Supported Art in Canada and Gap Filler in New Zealand, to a Neighbourhood Postcard Project in Chile and a New York project that stages work in laundromats, Laura Zabel writes in The Guardian  about some of the ways artists and communities can pull together. Read more


Access and inclusion at the Melbourne Fringe


Most accessible museum in the world

EMP Museum Seattle, a building designed by Frank Gehry, sets an international benchmark for accessibility. It combines the music and history of Seattle musicians Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, and all things sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Celebrity consultants and advisory board members Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and George Lucas promoted the museum’s inclusiveness and accessible public architecture.

The museum includes six lifts just for wheelchairs, electric door openers and low 70cm counters, while the best seats in the house are the wheelchair-accessible seats. There is also an assisted listening system and captioning for Deaf and hearing-impaired visitors and complete audio narration for blind and vision-impaired visitors. Read more  

Accessible Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is fully accessible, with a wide range of programmes for disabled people, their friends and families. It has wheelchair access, and elevators and escalators throughout the building. For Deaf and partially Deaf people there are regular talks and lectures with FM-assisted listening devices as well as Real-Time captioning by request and Sign Language or sign language-interpreted gallery talks. For blind and partially sighted people, there are guided touch tours and a touch collection where visitors can touch sculpture and other objects, and verbal imaging tours where the guide describes works of art in detail. Read about these and other examples of its accessible practice and programmes

Museum opens doors for kids with autism

On a Saturday at the Pacific Science Centre in Seattle, Washington, life-size robotic dinosaurs roar. A giant video monitor shows a person sneezing as a spray of mist shoots down from the ceiling. Nearby, naked mole rats scurry blindly through a maze of tunnels. And since it's all mud and rain outside, the place is packed with curious children and adults trying to keep up with them.

But what about people with autism? asks Jennifer Wing in this article (24 January 2015). Loud noises, bright lights and crowded spaces are things that Mike Hiner tries to avoid with his 20-year-old son Steven, who is autistic. Some museums, however, are recognising the problem, and toning down the sights and sounds. One Saturday each month, the Pacific Science Center opens up early for families with ASD before official hours begin. For two hours, the lights are dimmed, the loud noises are turned down and there is room to move around because it's less crowded ... Read more


Making accessible theatre in Wales

Chloë Clarke is a Cardiff-based theatre-maker and audio description consultant. Frustrated at the lack of decent audio description on offer to her as a visually impaired audience member, she decided to do something about it. “Our intention is to produce new writing that incorporates creative access from the very beginning. Doing our first production, The Importance of Being Described…Earnestly? it has really hit home that the accessibility needs to be thought of from the outset – at the writing stage. What we’re essentially about is providing a platform and a true representation of disabled and other marginalised groups of people in an edgy young-ish way. Yes, it’s about access and inclusion but it’s also about making high-quality theatre." Read more

The Talent Hub to nurture talented disabled dancers

TIN Arts, a leading inclusive dance organisation based in Durham, in partnership with Yorkshire Dance, are set to launch The Talent Hub – a new partnership project with support (£390,000) through Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence Fund. The Talent Hub aims to enable dancers with a learning disability, autism and/or additional needs to progress professionally into dance companies or emerge as independent dance makers. It will recruit ten talented emerging dance artists with a learning disability, autism and/or additional needs. They will be offered individualised wrap-around support alongside intensive periods of training, working with international artists to create new work for touring – profiling and distributing a new critical mass of distinctive, high-quality significant work. Read more about the partnership

Theatres changing the world

Ramps on the Moon wants to change the world. It’s a consortium of six UK regional theatres and disabled-led Graeae Theatre Company, set up to increase opportunities for Deaf and  disabled people as performers and audiences. This film explores the journey of institutional change happening as a result of the initiative. Watch the audio described film on YouTube

Deaf-blind audience patron experiences show through innovative interpreters

Ryan Odland sat in the audience in the back row at a production of the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening”  as one of the characters rose from the grave. Dancers swept across the stage, music swelling for the final climactic number. “That was amazing,” said Ryan, who is Deaf and blind. “Amazing.”

Staged by Deaf West Theatre, the production features a mix of Deaf and hearing actors, with almost every line either signed or captioned on stage. But Ryan was the only one there experiencing the show through an innovative combination of three interpreters. Two sign-language specialists switched off every 15 minutes, translating the show’s onstage signing on to his palm while another stationed herself behind Ryan, using his back as a proxy for the stage to communicate the show’s complex choreography.

“His back is like a canvas,” said Marilyn Trader, who is trained in an emerging field known as touch or haptic signals. “I want to actually paint a picture of what’s happening on the stage.”

It’s believed this is the first time a Broadway show has ever been translated in such a way. “I had no idea how much was missing,” said Ryan, who had attended theatre before but never with three interpreters. “It’s very empowering.” Read more

American Sign Language meets slam poetry

The Deaf Jam video highlights the experience of Deaf teens, and how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. It explores their desire to be understood by everyone in hearing poetry slams when using American Sign Language.

Aneta Brodski, an Israeli-born teen living in New York, is one of the first of a group of Deaf poets to participate in a major slam event. She is initially anxious about how Deaf performers will be received in a hearing dominated poetry slam but she longs for more inclusion in the hearing world. She takes to the stage to present her work in American Sign Language.

Slam poetry involves solo or team original poetry, which is judged by selected members of the audience who give each performance a numerical rating. Lower scored poets are eliminated in successive rounds until a winner emerges. It has ties to rap and hip-hop culture and is often highly politicised and about racial, economic and gender injustices. Watch the video trailer




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