Redefining Artistic Ability
The Walrus|November 2021
With its mandate to support opportunities for artists with disabilities, Tangled Art + Disability centres d/Deaf and disability-identified perspectives, and makes the experience of consuming art more accessible to a diverse public
AARON BROVERMAN

When visual and performance artist Gloria Swain presented her HIDDEN exhibition in 2020, she included a written acknowledgment that held space for fellow artists who couldn’t attend due to invisible disabilities. The showcase of work by Black artists with disabilities was held at the Tangled Art Gallery in Toronto, a space that is dedicated to showcasing the work of artists with disabilities, including Swain, who identifies as Mad.

“That was such a poignant demonstration of disability justice,” says Sean Lee, director of programming for Tangled Art + Disability, who has congenital scoliosis. “We’ve taken that to heart and included a care clause in our contracts to articulate that everyone’s mental health and safety are the most important parts, not the deliverables of the exhibition. The artist will still get paid even if they cannot fulfill everything promised, or their show is delayed.”

Tangled Art + Disability is not only a gallery—it’s also a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for artists with disabilities and promoting disability justice. Launched in 2003 as the not-for-profit Abilities Arts Festival, the organization’s founding mission was to elevate discussion and awareness of art created by people with disabilities. The aim was to promote diversity and inclusion in the mainstream art world while ensuring artists with disabilities were part of the larger cultural conversation.

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