In 2008, when Susan Gibson invited people to attend her community art piece “The SPARK Initiative”, my connection as an artist in the arts was tenuous at best.
The issues that kept me from becoming a fully involved artist in the community had as much to do with invisible barriers (a lack of funding in Manitoba for students with disabilities wanting to study fine arts, and a lack of support for professional artists with disabilities) as it did with physical barriers such as inaccessible studios and galleries. Because of so many challenges I was unable to establish a peer group. When I applied for my first arts grant I couldn’t provide letters of support by senior artists with practices in the same medium as me because I didn’t know any artists.
However, since that first “SPARK Initiative” I have had the constant support of SPARK. My hope is that through our network, other artists with disabilities will be able to find the support and encouragement the moment that they need it. I would like to see SPARK and similar groups bring the information and awareness to the arts that is necessary for artists and stakeholders with disabilities to be able to participate with as much ease and equity as those without disabilities. Finally, I am hopeful that with SPARK’s indomitable determination that artists with disabilities will be recognized in Canada as an invaluable voice to be added to the conversation of Canada’s arts and cultural identity.
Daphne Enns is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work freely explores what she describes as ‘the possibility of strength, fragility and beauty’ in own deformity and by extension, how disability informs identity. She is the former Chair of ADNM and currently lives in Ottawa, ON.