The NAC’S National Creation Fund’s Disability-driven Initiatives
The National Creation Fund is continually working to reimagine accessibility and what it looks like on stage, in conversation and in the processes of creation and funding applications. As we mark National AccessAbility Week this May 28 to June 3, we’re spotlighting the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund initiatives.
Since the very beginning, the Fund has been devoted to the alchemy of creation, investing in around a dozen new Canadian productions each year. Accessibility is at the heart of this work. The Fund gives Canadian artists at the peak of their art — in any language, culture or discipline — the opportunity to achieve their creative visions by providing them with the time, space and resources they need to bring their creations to life at their own pace.
In her New Year’s wishes, Sarah Garton Stanley, Artistic Producer for the National Creation Fund, mentioned that in 2021, an in-depth cultural consultancy was initiated by her predecessor Heather Moore, in tandem with Sarah Conn, senior manager of artist engagement, and Shay Erlich, Artist, Producer, Disability Consultant and Fund curator. The work has continued ever since, with an ever-growing group of disability consultants and disabled artists.
"We're now digging deeply into the responsibility non-disability-led projects have to all audiences in their producing plans," wrote Sarah Garton Stanley, "We are also looking at the resources disability-led projects need for equitable dreaming and scheming."
The Fund has continued to work with Shay Erlich, Erin Clark, Performing Arts Curator, Facilitator and Consultant, and Syrus Marcus Ware, Assistant Professor, SOTA McMaster, artist, activist, and scholar as members of the curatorial team from the Canadian performing arts milieu. The team discusses proposals submitted to the Fund to ensure that accessibility is part of every curatorial conversation. The Fund also invested in two disabled artist-led projects: Intangible Adorations Caravan (Tangled Arts) and Antigone (Sick + Twisted), and supported numerous projects involving disabled artists, including I Forgive You (Artistic Fraud).
“I am excited and inspired by the way that the Fund positions accessibility as creative, artistic, and essential,” said Shay Erlich. “So much of the time, accessibility is considered as a checklist requirement, but the Fund presents an important opportunity for all artists to consider how access can be an integral part of their artistic vision, ensuring that stories are told with care, intention and artistic strength regardless of who is in the audience or in the spotlight.”
The Fund hopes to help transform the conversations around accessibility and find better ways to support new creation models, including models led by artists with disabilities.
“I’m really interested in disability justice and that way that this will transform our social world and make spaces and communities wherein disabled, Deaf and Mad people can thrive,” said Syrus Marcus Ware. “This would let us bring access to towards transformation. The Fund is a disability justice effort as it structurally addresses economic injustice and issues faced by disabled, Deaf and Mad creators and makers.”
Always on the lookout for new initiatives to join, the National Creation Fund is also collaborating with Step Right Up, a video and event series developed in partnership with Stage Left Productions in Calgary and the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, British Columbia.
“Step Right Up aims to bring together disabled and non-disabled theatre producers in a creative exploration of the peculiar innovations found in disability aesthetics,” explained the Founding Artistic Director of Stage Left Productions, Michelle Decottignies.
Changing perspectives is essential. That’s why the Fund will continue to play its part in making creation more accessible and exploring the creative possibilities of accessibility for disabled and non-disabled artists and communities.