PhD project awarded Arts Council England grant to commission artworks

Art as Advocacy (AaA) is a collaborative research project which explores curating by people with learning disabilities as a means of self advocacy.

Art as Advocacy, a project facilitated by Jade French as part of her PhD study, has been awarded an Arts Council England grant to enable research participants to commission new artworks.

The project’s research participants are a group of five curators with learning disabilities named the AaA collective. Since January 2016, they have been exploring the role of a curator and devising a theme for their own exhibition. As part of their role as curators, they decided to pursue funds to enable them to commission brand new works of art.

Jade French, a PhD student in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, said:

“These new artworks will feature in an exhibition titled Auto Agents due to open this November at Bluecoat, a contemporary arts space in Liverpool.

“Commissioning artwork has become a key aspect of what contemporary curators do, and the curators on this project were passionate about having their say on what sort of art should be given the opportunity to be made.

“Auto Agents explores what it means to be independent by making your own decision and comes from the curators’ personal knowledge and experiences around the continued lack of choice and control many people with learning disabilities face.”

The artists appointed by the curators for the new commissions were announced this week ― James Harper and Mark Simmonds, both members of Liverpool’s The Royal Standard Studio.

Over the summer, James Harper will be working with the curators to develop a large scale interactive piece responding to the curators theme of ‘autonomy’, that sees audiences controlling a sculpture through various independent movements

In addition to the artwork, the curators have also commissioned designer Mark Simmonds to co-develop with them an accessible alternative to an art gallery publication.

James Harper said:

“I am delighted to have been selected for the Auto Agents exhibition at Liverpool’s Bluecoat. This will be my first commission which is really exciting. The theme for the exhibition really suits my practice at the moment: exploring interactivity, autonomy and kinesis within contemporary art. I’m really looking forward to working closely with the AaA group.”

Mark Simmonds said:

“I am looking forward to working closely with Jade, James and the AaA curators over the coming weeks and months in producing a publication that translates and expands upon the themes and components of the Auto Agents exhibition.”

Auto Agents will open in November 2016 at Bluecoat, Liverpool. See the Art as Advocacy blog for updates.

Art as Advocacy is a PhD research project run in partnership with the University of Leeds, self-advocacy charity Halton Speak Out & Liverpool’s cultural hub Bluecoat. This is a three year study funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme.