What is Art Access?


The arts access philosophy acknowledges that all people have the right to express themselves creatively and in particular the right to express their own cultures and their own arts. This right is recognised in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The purpose and mission of any arts access model is:

  1. to open the doors (provide access) and to
  2. remove any barriers

that prevent people and communities who currently have limited access to the arts from getting through those doors and having access to the arts as participants or audience.

This task is done by supporting projects of merit that open access to the arts or that remove barriers to access to creativity and cultural expression.

The communities and individuals who have previously had limited access to the arts can then create art works that express the unique qualities of their particular cultures, whether the culture is of people who have disabilities, are in prison, are refugees, are older citizens or are young people who have fallen through the gaps of an education system. Therefore this access to the arts focuses on communities and individuals who currently have limited access to the arts by:

  1. encouraging organisations to open their doors to potential artists whose access has been limited;
  2. setting up opportunities including creative spaces where people can go and do their own art;
  3. stimulating communities to increase the number of activities they have that celebrate cultural diversity;
  4. changing government policies that deny access to the arts;
  5. working for the removal of barriers to participation and access to the arts for groups of people, either as participants or as audience;
  6. by inspiring people and communities currently with limited access, to celebrate their art and culture and to share their cultures with the wider public;
  7. providing circumstances and locations that celebrate the unique art of these communities and individuals and which will enable them to have fun, communicate and take pleasure and pride in their own cultures.

It is important to assert that the arts access philosophy is not about the concepts of “development” or “therapy.” Both development and therapy are based on assumptions that those who have had limited access to the arts need to be changed and have their art forms developed according to a criteria of arts standards, dominant art forms, social standards or health. The belief that people should change and conform underlies the European colonial and medical models. Occasionally therapy is also about alleviation of pain.

Arts access accepts people and communities where and how they are and with them celebrates their cultures, their own myths and histories, their ideologies, their values and their ways of expressing these cultures.

The access arts philosophy therefore does not provide “how-to” tuition for people who have had limited access to the arts. It provides inspiration, organisational and technical support and mentoring that will enable those involved in providing projects to enable those with limited access to the arts to have that access.

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