Exhibition shines a spotlight on the disability arts movement in Birmingham

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The importance of representing disability in art is being showcased in an exhibition at the Midlands Arts Centre.

Inside the exhibition
Inside the exhibition

The collection of artworks were produced by activists who fought for the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.

Anna Berry, the curator, believes it’s important to represent disability in art.

“I think it’s good for all of us to try to be aware of our prejudices, so we can overcome them.

“But I don’t take a didactic view – I’m not out to school people or call them out. This was a good opportunity to shine a light on discrimination, without being sanctimonious about it.”

Anna Berry

The project had to shut down early due to COVID-19, affecting the amount of people who saw the collection and the desired outcome.

The project was open from January 11 to March 22 2020.

“Unfortunately MAC, like other arts centres and institutions, had to close, so fewer people were able to see it in the end.”

Anna Berry

The Coronavirus death toll has exceeded 14,500 amongst hospital patients, rising by 847 in a day.

Tony Heaton I Artist in Residence at The Art House, March 2019 / The Art House UK

Tony Heaton OBE, activist and sculptor involved in the Disabled Arts Movement and the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, was featured in the exhibition.

Tony believes that although the project has been stifled, people can still make a change.

“I think the exhibition had a long run before the lock down which is a real blessing and I did get over to see it when the conference was on.

“Around  14 million, that’s around 1 in 5 people have an impairment of some sort and face disabling barriers, a significant part of the population, so I would expect that to be reflected in society.”

Tony Heaton OBE

Tony, who was awarded an OBE in 2013 for his activism, said young disabled artists should follow their own path.

“Be who you want to be and be true to yourself.

“Don’t be side-tracked by Ableism, learn how to be assertive, understand the Social Model of Disability and recognise barriers, prejudice and discrimination and call it out.  

“Get to know some disability activists, the barriers that impose disability can make people very isolated, having allies and shared experience will supply strength and conviction to help you on your journey.”

Tony Heaton OBE

Tony can still work in his studio but has had many events and projects cancelled due to COVID-19.

To read more about this project in light of its closure, click here. Follow these links to find out more about the work of Anna Berry or Tony Heaton OBE.

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