74 NI artists awarded £148,000 fund to create new work

Seventy-four d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists are rebuilding their practices and creating new work with the support of a £148,000 fund, one of the largest grant packages ever delivered by the University of Atypical for Arts and Disability.

The £2,000 grants were collaboratively funded by the Department for Communities and Arts Council of Northern Ireland and support artists across a range of art forms including visual arts, dance, craft, music, comedy, drama, literature and multi-art form.

CEO of University of Atypical Damien Coyle said: “The past two years had a devastating impact on the arts community. It takes time and resources to rebuild and these grants will help 74 artists to create new work and develop their practices. The grants recognise the value of their contribution to society, the need for creativity and expression.”

D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists play an essential role in the culture, arts and heritage sector and reflect the diversity and inclusiveness of our society.

One of those awarded funding was artist Joel Simon who explained that grants like this are essential for the artistic community in Northern Ireland.

“Many of us really struggled during the lockdown as opportunities to work disappeared basically overnight. This grant was a real lifeline allowing myself and others to not only keep working but also to gain new skills and I’m tremendously grateful for this opportunity,” he said.

With his grant, he is now working on a series of paintings depicting people in Belfast at night showing a sense of loneliness and alienation within a big metropolitan environment.

Joel explained that he was inspired by an exhibition of American realist painter Edward Hopper which he found emotionally moving. While Joel usually paints using studio lighting, this is a new exploration for him using ambient street lighting which he can alter and distil in his work.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to improving access to the arts for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists working here and to providing meaningful opportunities for these artists to develop their professional, artistic careers.  We welcome this critically-needed funding for 74 artists which will help them create new work and support them at a time when many artists have been left struggling as a result of the pandemic.”

Mixed media artist Anushiya Sundaralingam, another grant recipient, is using her funding towards creating a new body of work exploring the impact of Covid both physically and psychologically.

“It was such a difficult two years. I’m a carer for my mum and hardly left the house for the first year, I was so afraid of carrying the virus in,” she explained.

The lockdowns also brought back memories and deep feelings from her childhood in Sri Lanka during the civil war.

“I come from Sri Lanka originally and when Covid hit it reminded me of the war with food shortages and curfews in some countries. I watched this and I felt anxious, it just brought it all back. I’m so excited about this new work. At this stage it’s still very abstract and I’m experimenting with new ideas,” she added.

Her grant will be used for materials and time in the studio for her to work.

“This grant came at just the right time. During Covid most artists really lost almost all of their income. This funding is allowing me the time to work on this project which will reflect on the past two years and to create something positive. Hopefully when I complete it, I can go on to show the work,” she added.

Share This: