A reflection on the year from the Executive Director
Posted: 21 December, 2021
Despite living and working through a pandemic, Arts & Disability Ireland, the board, team, partners, funders and supporters have continued to break new ground and reach new artists and audiences, not just in Ireland but around the world, as a result of the predominantly virtual environment we now find ourselves existing in.
As Executive Director, I want to thank you all of you for sticking with us through what has been a time of enormous change and physical distance.
During 2021, in partnership with the Kennedy Center, ADI took forward our From Access to Inclusion, an Arts and Culture Summit originally scheduled to take place in Dublin Castle in May 2020. Reconceived as an entirely online offering, the Summit programme spread across the year, featured a 3-day Symposium with 30 presenters, 5 discussion panels, 2 keynotes, alongside 35 Website Clinics, 10 Workshops, 3 Evening events, a Launch and Closing Celebration, as well as post Summit On-Demand recordings. Across all these events, we welcomed 1,549 from Ireland and across the world! We are so proud to have been able to facilitate international conversations on access and inclusion in arts and culture. Let’s continue to make access happen around the world together!
Also during 2021, Arts and Disability Connect, the funding scheme for individual artists with disabilities which ADI manages on behalf of the Arts Council has grown exponentially. With two rounds of the scheme this year, 30 artists received €116,000 in funding. A new Research & Development award of €5,000 was created, the New Work award increased from €8,000 to €15,000 and the Mentoring award from €2,000 to €3,000, with the Training award remaining at €1,000.
While it has been very difficult for artists to present their work to audiences in person at arts centres, theatres, galleries and festivals during 2021 due to ongoing changes in public health advice to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the pandemic has facilitated new ways of working for ADI and the artists we work with. ADI staff working remotely has shown how much more flexible and accessible the office environment can be, which I believe is already showing us new ways of doing things for the future.
Having ADI Board meetings and Arts and Disability Connect selection panels online has allowed for a greater geographic spread in participation. Accessible digital streaming of performances in particular has extended the reach of venues beyond their locality to audiences with disabilities for whom travel is a barrier. Through virtual conferencing, training and workshops we have contributed to fostering a global access community, creating new opportunities for affordable learning and exchange.
All that said, I fully appreciate how difficult the last two years have been for everyone and that the virtual world we’ve been obliged to inhabit for nearly the last two years has been limiting and challenging in many ways, I also believe we have found ourselves working in ways we never thought possible. This has opened up exciting employment, presentation and learning opportunities, breaking down barriers and allowing people with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others, something I hope we don’t lose sight of as the pandemic we’re living through becomes our past in 2022.