Arts & Disability International Conference 2018

Discussions and awareness on how arts and culture can be harnessed to build an inclusive society were generated during the Arts & Disability International Conference and the True Colours Festival held on 22-23 March 2018. The Conference attracted about 350 international and local participants from the public, private, and people sectors. It is a culmination of the past editions of the Arts & Disability Forum since 2016. In the third year (2018), the SIF contributed as a principal partner of the Conference, working closely with co-organisers National Arts Council and Very Special Arts to continue exchanges and foster leadership within the disability sector.

In the spirit of growing an Arts for Good network within the region, the SIF invited 10 participants from Southeast Asia to participate in the Conference. The group comprised artists, art administrators, educators and social welfare programmers.

Together Very Special Arts, the SIF supported the sole theatre showcase at the True Colours Festival (24-25 March 2018), which was held in conjunction with the Conference. No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability’s world premiere of “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” and “My Home is Not a Shell” – a collaborative work-in-progress with Very Special Theatrics were performed to a full house on 24 and 25 March.

This project is part of the SIF’s Arts for Good initiative, which seeks to promote awareness of social issues, share best practices and enable action for positive social impact through arts and culture.

Credit (for some photographs): Arts & Disability International Conference 2018, co-organised by Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) and National Arts Council (NAC)”.

 

In the spirit of growing the Arts For Good ecosystem, the SIF supported 10 participants from Southeast Asia to be part of the Arts & Disability International Conference. The group comprised artists, art administrators, educators and social welfare programmers.
Guest of Honour Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - MCCY Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng emphasised how the arts could build a caring people, a cohesive community and a confident society.
Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, Ichiro Kabasawa, explained how the Foundation has been supporting persons with disability since 2006 and provided opportunities for them to perform and express themselves.
Director of UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division Dr Indrajit Banerjee emphasised the UN’s commitment to promoting the right of all people to participate in society as part of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Raspberry Ripple Productions founder Kate Hood stressed, “Nothing about us, without us,” about the need for more disability leadership in the arts and the potential for the arts to create social change.
Keynote speaker Kris Yoshie highlighted the different arts-based collaborations by her organisation, SLOW LABEL, between abled and disabled persons. She emphasised a “just do it” attitude, stressing a focus on action towards encouraging society to respect differences and uniqueness.
(From left) A panel discussion on advancing inclusion in the arts, moderated by Kenneth Kwok (left) (National Arts Council, Singapore), discussed how the arts can foster inclusion by creating opportunities to participate in society; by celebrating differences as a reflection of the human condition; and by creating identity and solidarity in society.
Pete Sparks, who leads Drake Music Scotland, talked about inclusion in the arts, specifically on how music should and can be played by anyone, regardless of ability. He outlined alternative methods of teaching music using new forms of technology. He emphasised that teaching methods need to adapt to different needs and ability as there is no “one size fits all”.
Artistic Director of No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability Alirio Zavarce provided his insights on how the theatre arts can be harnessed to change perspectives, “challenge the centre” of accepted beliefs and build bridges to understand one another.
“Skill sets aside, are we enabling children with special needs to enjoy arts?” said Michael Cheng, Applied Drama Practitioner, during a panel discussion on various roles of the arts in special education. The panel was moderated by Dr Wong Meng Ee (left) (National Institute of Education, Singapore).
Sokny Onn and Buntheng Ou shared on the work of Epic Arts, an international inclusive arts organisation in Cambodia raising awareness on disability. Their work focuses on arts education, community arts, and social entrepreneurship to empower persons of across all abilities by providing skills, confidence, and opportunities.
Baey Yam Keng speaking to Rachel High, an active member of the No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability. She was part of the ensemble with actors from Very Special Theatrics Singapore for “My Home is Not a Shell” showcase at the True Colours Festival.
SG Enable\'s Deputy Director for Communications and Development Chia Ai Ling talked about her organisation’s vision to build an inclusive society by empowering people with disabilities. She also outlined how the Enabling Village works as a space to encourage interaction between people with and without disabilities.
Musician Adrian Anantawan from Canada moved the audience with a rendition of his grandmother’s favourite song. He also recounted memories of overcoming challenges and prejudices when he was growing up with a physical disability.
President of Japan Barrier-free Association Yoshihiro Kaiya presented his works in organising concerts for disabled musicians in Japan. He shared his belief that music itself is barrier-free and should be enjoyed by everyone.
No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability’s artistic director Alirio Zavarce conducted an experiential theatre workshop, where participants learnt approaches to planning, designing and implementing inclusive theatre workshops and activities.
Executive Director of the Centre for Education and Community Development in Vietnam Pham Thi Hong (left), SIF alumni and local theatre-maker Chua Soo Pong (right), with SIF Programmes Division Director Jaryll Chan (middle). They were part of the group of 49 guests who gathered at a lunch organised by the SIF to foster connections between conference participants and the SIF’s network in harnessing the arts for good.
Shin Jong Ho, Chief Director of Korea Disability Arts & Culture Center (right) and Sumitha Ramasamy, Senior Manager of Malaysian Association for the Blind (left) who are both working to promote awareness about accessibility and inclusion.
Participants from Southeast Asia supported by the SIF and delegates from the Korea Disability and Arts Culture Center took part in an accessibility tour at the National Gallery of Singapore. They learnt how the museum’s infrastructure was planned with accessibility considerations, and the museum’s programmes are curated to provide access for all members of society.
No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability staged the world premiere of “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” at the True Colours Festival, where performers shared their sometimes-traumatic experiences of acquiring a disability through illness, injury or birth.
No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability and Very Special Theatrics collaborated on “My Home is Not a Shell”. The showcase explores how Singapore is looking to build a sense of home for its citizens, in the midst of rapid change and development.
During the question and answer session after showcases, Andrew Liew, Chairman of Very Special Arts Singapore, emphasised that there are many opportunities for disabled arts to advance, and the collaboration between No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability and Very Special Theatrics is a promising start.
R Chandran (right), the director of Very Special Theatrics, said that the collaboration was an opportunity to expose its actors to different and new ways of working. The inclusive, semi-professional performing company aims to give opportunities to people with special needs to find a vocation in the arts.
The collaboration between No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability and Very Special Theatrics was performed to a full house, marking the start of a journey that leverages the potential of arts and cross-cultural collaboration for social good.
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