Enhancing accessibility to art gallery spaces for children with disabilities and high support needs and their families

MK Gallery

If you are interested in applying for this studentship opportunity please contact the lead supervisor, Dr O'Dell, in the first instance

Supervisory team: Dr Lindsay O'Dell and Dr Elizabeth Tilley (Open University) and Bethany Mitchell (Milton Keynes Gallery

Disabled people, and especially those with complex needs, often face barriers to taking part in arts activities. Milton Keynes Gallery has a stated mission to improve access to culture. The Gallery has been successful in securing funding to support a new inclusive programme targeting young people with complex needs and their families. The programme is supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Milton Keynes Community Foundation. The project, Art and Us, part of the gallery’s Inclusive Practice in the Arts programme, is designed to develop the expertise, confidence and capacity of the Milton Keynes Gallery team and Associate Artists to deliver a stimulating, challenging and enjoyable programme of art explorations and activities, engaging families with a child or children with physical or learning disability. It has been developed in recognition of the unique needs of, and strains experienced by, families with a child or children with complex needs. The three-year programme builds upon Milton Keynes Gallery's expertise in 'whole family' programming and the Gallery's long-term partnership with Hastings-based organisation, Project Art Works, working to create meaningful arts engagement with individuals with profound disabilities. The ‘whole family’ approach is designed to allow the positive impact of creativity to be experienced much more widely. The project is considered by its funders to be an exemplar of best practice and innovation in the arts.

From spring 2018, the programme has been delivering weekly workshops to enable families to work directly with an artist with specialist training in complex needs, allowing family members to enjoy spending time together in an environment which is creative, accessible, fun and understanding of everyone’s needs.

The purpose of the studentship is to:

  • work with the project team to produce new insights into how to support disabled children with complex, profound disabilities to participate in arts-based activities;
  • examine the impact of the programme on families, gallery staff, artists and the organisation as a whole.
  • explore, theorise and document what constitutes meaningful engagement with the arts for this group of children;
  • explore what factors are implicated in ‘physically and emotionally accessible’ arts spaces

The studentship will commence while the project was in its second year and would involve data collection as the project enters its final year of funding. The timing works well to enable the student to engage in the project when it is established and to enable insights into the impact of the project as it comes to the end of its 3 year funding (February 2021).

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