Sculpture of Great Britain map made out of wheelchair parts on a white background

About Art and Social Change: The Disability Arts Movement

The Disability Arts Movement were a civil rights group of artists and activists who fought the marginalization of disabled people. Their work supported the struggle of Disability Rights activists, which led to the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. This exhibition presents a selection of art works, along with objects used by activists, that raised awareness and effected political change for disabled people.

In the early 70s, Vic Finkelstein, a wheelchair user and anti-apartheid campaigner applied some of the principles he observed in anti-apartheid campaigns to disability rights. Along with Paul Hunt, he formed the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation. There followed a movement to shift the perceptions of disability to focus on the structural and social barriers disabled people face, and away from the medical- or tragedy-orientated models that had dominated.

The work of the Disability Arts Movement was not only inspired by the Disability Rights Movement, but became an intrinsic part of the movement itself, and contributed to the subsequent political change.

DASH, MAC, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) and Wysing Arts Centre worked in partnership on a three-year programme of curatorial commissions and residencies for artists/curators who identify as disabled. Its aim is to support the development of d/Deaf and disabled curators and to address the cultural changes needed in the visual arts sector in order for it to become more inclusive.

The exhibition has been curated by artist Anna Berry, and is the culmination of her year-long development and curatorial placement at MAC.

Featured artists: Nancy Willis, Adam Reynolds, Tony Heaton OBE, Tanya Raabe Webber, Colin Hambrook, Tom Shakespeare, Eddy Hardy, Steve Cribb, Ian Stanton, Johnny Crescendo, Aaron Williamson, David Hevey.

With thanks to Shape, NDACA and the Imperial Health Charity Art Collection for their advice, support and loans and to all the exhibiting artists for their loans of work.

Tony Heaton OBE, Great Britain from a Wheelchair, 1994. Courtesy of the artist.