Cultivating spaces for extraordinary artists


Cultivate mentoring programme (2015-2018).
DASH identified the need for a robust formal mentoring programme for emerging disabled visual artists across the West Midlands, to enable them access to opportunities and practical specialist support to develop their practice and to cultivate a visual arts ecology that is diverse and representative of the diversity of our society.

Cultivate addressed this need through a three year mentoring programme for emerging Disabled visual artists based in the West Midlands.

Sixty disabled artists across the West Midlands were able to access a total of 360 hours of specialised bespoke continued professional development mentoring time over this three-year programme (twenty mentees per year, with an average of 6 hours each), from a skilled group of mentors.

We worked with West Midlands Higher Education art and design departments to identify and recruit students who were eligible for the programme.

In addition, we recruited mentees through our network of galleries across the region, the New Art West Midlands visual arts network, other disability networks, adverts, social media and our database to ensure Cultivate reached right across the region. Artists were also welcome to self-refer to the scheme.

The Cultivate programme ran from April 2015 to March 2018.

A key outcome from this project was identified in the Evaluation report by Mandy Fowler.

"It is clear from the mentees through anecdotal information, that the biggest overarching difference that the programme has made to the lives of disabled artists has been through the one-to-one contact with the mentors. Many of the mentees have faced various forms of isolation as disabled people, and a lack of support for their creative ambitions. All of the mentoring has been delivered on a face-to-face basis, with the mentors travelling across the region to access the mentees and their work. This has helped to remove the barrier of isolation that many of the mentees faced, to be able to discuss their work and practice with an experienced mentor that was able to listen to them, acknowledge their work as artists, support them and expand their horizon and perspectives. This impact on the wellbeing of the mentees through the mentoring programme reduces the need for support from other areas of society. "

Applications to the scheme have now closed, however following on from the successes of Cultivate we are planning a follow-up Midlands-wide scheme Cultivation, which will launch in 2020.

Cultivate is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

To watch videos about the project and the Mentors who took part go to DASH's Youtube channel.