What does different mean to you? Lessons from artists with disability

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Late last year, EPIC hosted an event to mark the official opening of A World of Difference, our art exhibition celebrating International Day of People with Disability for 2018.

Now in its fourth year, our art exhibition is all about showcasing the talents of professional and emerging artists with disability. Every year, we select a theme for our contributing artists to explore through their preferred creative medium. The 2018 theme, A World of Difference, allows artists and attendees to examine what ‘different’ means to them.

One of the things I love most about our annual art exhibition is the opportunity to gain insight into the artists’ world through their art. Art is such a personal thing, and there is much to learn through the artworks, and particularly the artists’ stories and journeys. At the same time, attendees can challenge themselves to unpack their own ideas about what ‘different’ means.

It was a great joy to see so many people turn out for our official launch on Wednesday. We estimate around 120 people were in attendance, and we sold over $4000 worth of art on the night. With 100% of sales going straight back to the artist, it was a great way to kick off this year’s exhibition. Since that time, a further $1000 worth of art has been sold.

I understand that there may be some who don’t understand why we continue running this art exhibition, as the connection between art and employment is not immediately apparent. But the truth is that this event fits squarely with our mission: To enable people, communities and places to overcome disadvantage and aspire to their greatest potential.

As I looked around the gallery on opening night, and had the privilege of meeting many of the artists, there was no denying that each artist had potential in spades. But the unfortunate truth is that there are some very different expectations in society around what the ‘greatest potential’ might be for people with disability.

It’s a heartbreaking reality, and one that runs very contrary to what we believe at EPIC. And that’s one of the major reasons we continue to run this exhibition: to give people with disability an opportunity to realise their potential.

It was heartening to see our artists put their hearts on their sleeves and gain confidence through being part of this exhibition. Some were thrilled to sell art, and others were proud to have simply taken the plunge and ‘put themselves out there’. Our artists have important stories to tell, and those stories spark conversations that we need to have about what ‘different’ means, and why different is not bad.

During your downtime over the festive period, before work kicks back in for 2019, I challenge you to answer the question: What does A World of Difference means to me? By examining our beliefs and challenging our prejudice, we can begin to level the playing field for people with disability and be part of the change we desperately need in this world.

That’s a New Year’s resolution I can get behind.