Graduate Award 2020 – Dominic McKeown & Sinéad O’Neill-Nicholl

University of Atypical is delighted to once more announce our annual Graduate Award, aimed at supporting D/deaf and disabled artists at the beginning of their professional career in the arts. This year’s cohort of students have faced a number of challenges brought about by COVID-19, with many missing out on aspects of the experience, most notably the end of year showcase event and the opportunity for new artists to gain valuable visibility locally.

Image: Dominic McKeown

We usually attend the exhibition preview event in order to select and offer one student the Graduate Award. This year, we’ve worked with all departments within Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, inviting staff to nominate D/deaf and disabled students for shortlisting. In response to the quality of work this year, we are offering two Graduate Awards for 2020, to Dominic McKeown and Sinéad O’Neill-Nicholl. Artists receive a bursary, production budget and 8 hours of one-to-one mentoring with a mid-career artist, as well as curatorial, access, marketing and technical support.


Chairperson of University of Atypical, Damien Coyle, said:

‘Both artists will feature in our 2021 gallery programme and we’re really looking forward to working with them both. Their respective practices, in sculpture and audio installation, will complement our existing programme and hopefully have real resonances with our audiences. Now – more than ever – it is important to amplify the voices of D/deaf and disabled artists, particularly those who are emerging from college into a changed cultural landscape.’

Dan Shipsides, Lecturer at Belfast School of Art, said

‘We are delighted for both Sinead and Dominic to receive this award – both have fascinating practices and are extremely deserving of it. The support that it will offer them will be invaluable in helping them both continue to develop on from the MFA. It’s an honour for our MFA students to receive recognition and support from University of Atypical.’ 

Recipient Sinéad O’Neill-Nicholl said:

I am absolutely thrilled to have been offered this opportunity by the University of Atypical. The organisation plays such a special role within Belfast, promoting inclusivity in the arts and advocating for people with disabilities and it is a real honour to be recognised by them in this way.’

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