Art exhibition gives insight into commercial life with a disability

Artworks in The Marketplace and I exhibition

As the UK exits lockdown, a new art exhibition sheds light on the experiences of people living with a disability as they navigate an increasingly complex commercial world.

The Marketplace & I: Commercial Experiences of Disability Explored through Art – on display at Rural Arts, in Thirsk – features artworks expressing experiences of dealing with the commercial world –when living with a disability.

Dr Leighanne Higgins, of Lancaster University Management School’s Marketing Department, has worked with people living with disability, as well disability support groups and charities from across England and Wales, to compile the artworks for the exhibition.

The artists, from across the UK, have produced photos, sculptures, paintings, poetry, music, songs and dance routines that share the experiences of people with disabilities when dealing with the commercial marketplace.

“While Monday was ‘Freedom Day’ in the UK, the freedom that is liberating for many instead brings more worry for many with impairments,” said Dr Higgins. “Freedom right now is quite dangerous for many of them, rendering them vulnerable and leaving many considering shielding once again to protect themselves or loved ones with impairments.

“These current concerns echo long-standing and wide-ranging issues for people living with disabilities and their engagement with the commercial marketplace. The project and exhibition aims to prioritise people’s abilities over their impairments and to try and shatter ableism in the marketplace and wider society. The works were completed before the pandemic, but still very much reflect subjects Covid has raised such as access and inclusion barriers to commercial services.

The project, part-funded by The Marketing Trust, features works from people with different types of disability, from the North of England, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Wales and other areas.

It provides an insight into the approximately seven million people of working age who are registered as having a disability in the UK. They hold an estimated spending power of £249bn, but their experiences are often neglected in broader society.

“We have works from the perspectives of the people with disabilities and also from the points-of-view of carers,” added Dr Higgins. “The carers offer a view of what it is like to realise that your child is going to have a disability in their life and what it is like to be a parent/carer.

“There are works by a mixture of people with physical and cognitive and learning disabilities, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, visual impairments and autism. Disability is not just about being in a wheelchair, there are many different types of disability, and our artists are able to present a real mixture of perspectives and experiences.”

The Marketplace & I: Commercial Experiences of Disability Explored through Art will be open to the public at Rural Arts, in Thirsk, between Tuesday, July 20th and Friday, July 30th. Having been postponed due to Covid-19 in 2020, the exhibition will also be on show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2022.

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