New project creates international opportunities for disabled artists
Two leading artists from Northern Ireland and Germany are participating in an exciting new exchange project aimed at creating accessible international opportunities for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists.
The Disabled Artists International Residency Project, co-ordinated by the Belfast-based University of Atypical, is a response to the feeling of exclusion experienced by d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists when applying for or participating in international residencies.
Northern Ireland artist Husk Bennet will begin a residency at the queer art collective Coven in Berlin, while Flax Arts Studios in Belfast will host the German artist Chris Yohei Tokunaga in February 2024.
The project aims to develop a best practice model for international residencies for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists, which will go on to be shared with other arts organisations.
Damien Coyle from the disabled-led arts charity University of Atypical said: “This is a unique and important project that explores the barriers that d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists encounter when participating in residences, and the model of best practice will provide arts organisations with an easy-to-use template they can follow to make residencies more accessible.”
This initiative is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and research and development involved the Belfast and Berlin partners along with the Video Club and Vital Capacities from Brighton.
Patrica Lavery, Head of Community Arts & Education at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to support this vital initiative which aims to identify and remove the barriers that exist for d/Deaf, disabled, and Neurodiverse artists when applying for career-enhancing international residencies. Our support for this initiative demonstrates the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to making the arts accessible to all, and we wish both artists taking part in the exchange every success.”
The two artists will exchange cities during February. Chris Yohei Tokunaga is a Berlin based Kyoto born electronic music producer and singer/songwriter. Living with visual hallucinations since the age of 19, music was his constant companion. He considers it important to be open about his own mental health as he hopes to connect with and motivate other people with disabilities.
Husk Bennett is a visual artist from Belfast who studied Fine Art & Art History at Manchester School of Art. Husk has exhibited extensively across the UK and Ireland including ‘The Gallery S1’ with Artichoke Trust, Short Supply’s ‘Queer Contemporaries’ in AIR Gallery, Manchester, ‘URGENCIES (2023)’ in CCA, Derry and Catalyst Arts’ FIX ‘21, Belfast.
Alongside this, he has taken part in The MAC’s Hatch & Scratch scheme from 2021-22, was on the committee for the Flax Arts Project Space and is currently supported by Belfast City Council.