Collaborating Across Abilities and Cultures
About 350 participants from 12 countries attended the Arts & Disability International Conference 2018 to share developments in the area of arts and disability.
The Arts & Disability International Conference (ADIC) 2018 was co-organised by the National Arts Council and Very Special Arts (VSA) and supported by principal partners the Singapore International Foundation and British Council. It was the culmination of learnings at the past two years of Arts & Disability Forums. Participants at the Conference built on their earlier discussions, sharing best practices and innovations in inclusive arts and multi-sectorial partnerships.
The Conference speakers included Epic Arts, an inclusive arts organisation in Cambodia, who not only shared about their arts education projects, but allowed the conference delegates to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of their work through a dance showcase by a wheelchair performer.
“We can talk a lot about what impact the arts have, but you need to see it. You need to experience it, otherwise you can’t understand it,” shared Alirio Zavarce, the Artistic Director of No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability (NSA), a theatre company in Australia which is recognised for its methodology and community-building for artistic excellence in arts, disability and theatre.
Speaking at ADIC 2018, held between 22 and 25 March, Alirio shared his methodology and approaches for inclusion to enable effective community engagement through theatre. Using videos featuring in-depth interviews with performers of different abilities, Alirio demonstrated how personal narratives are essential to his theatrical projects. Through a collaborative process, the arts can be harnessed to develop understanding and change mindsets.
Building an Arts For Good Community
To help grow networks and capabilities in the arts and disability sector, the SIF supported 13 Southeast Asian participants and their caregivers, involved in this sector to attend ADIC 2018.
Comprising artists, art administrators, educators and social welfare programmers, the participants also attended a post-conference networking lunch with SIF alumni and partners at Soul Food at Enabling Village, and a learning journey at National Gallery Singapore.
“I believe strongly Singapore is indeed a role model for us all especially in ASEAN to emulate and do more for the Arts among its disabled communities. The Enabling Village should be a standard model for us especially in Malaysia to do likewise.”
- Stevens Chan, Founder and CEO, DID MY Academy Sdn Bhd, Malaysia
Co-creating across cultures
Advancing Arts and Disability
Alirio and Chandran hope that this collaboration is the first small step towards developing something bigger for the actors at both theatre companies and at the same time contributing to the development of the arts and disability landscape and inclusiveness in both countries.
“Singapore is such a beautiful place and its cultural diversity fascinates me. Here you have all these amazing cultures working together regardless of difference. But diversity is more than colour, culture and religion, it includes ability, sexual orientation and gender. Imagine if Singapore could add all notions of diversity and continue to work together in harmony? I think Singapore has the potential of becoming a real example of harmony to the world.”
- Alirio Zavarce, Artistic Director, No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability
“It’s about providing opportunities for people with disabilities, rather than hindrances. Once given a chance to perform, they blossom. In Singapore, the environment is very positive. There’s a lot of support from people here. I think mindsets towards disability are slowly changing.”
- R Chandran, Director, Very Special Theatrics Singapore
“There's a lot of opportunity for disabled arts to advance. The best way is to cut across individuals and organisations and just do it.” said Andrew Liew, Chairman of VSA. "Just talking about it, getting together and doing it is already one big step."
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