MA Inclusive Arts Practice, BA Photography
Jade French is an artist-facilitator, writer and researcher based in Liverpool, UK. Jade predominantly works alongside people with the label of learning disability to explore the intersections of art, disability and social change, often examining constructs of access, agency, status and inclusion through collaboratively producing, curating and commissioning visual art.
Jade French is an artist-facilitator and curator with an artistic background in photography, printing and graphic design. Her involvement in curating group exhibitions and arts festivals, and a professional background in running art venues for both the public and private sectors, informs and shapes her research activity. Jade also has a experience of working alongside people with a learning disability in both artistic and supporting contexts. Her time spent working at disability charities and self-advocacy groups sparked an interest in inclusive art as a tool for shaping social change. Much of Jade’s research is informed by inclusive, arts based and participatory methodologies and a strong track record of instigating multi-agency projects.
Jade’s research interests emerge from practical experience of running inclusive and participatory arts projects. Jade’s work explores the intersection of arts, disability & social change, with focus on issues of intellectual access for people with learning disabilities to art and cultural spaces. Research areas of interest include participatory arts and new forms of curatorship, process-based arts practices, art and public practices, access and inclusion, co-production and co-design, engagement and institutional power in art gallery contexts, as well as participatory action research, arts based research and inclusive research with people with learning disabilities.
Research Projects & Grants
2017 Large Travel Grant. 33rd International Conference on Disability and Diversity. The White Rose College of Arts & Humanities [Lead]
2016 Large Travel Grant. 9th International Conference on the Inclusive Museum. The White Rose College of Arts & Humanities [Lead]
2015 #BeACritic. Arts Critic Development Award. John Moore’s University & The Double Negative
2014 Student Led Forum Grant. Arts & Social Change Network. The White Rose College of Arts & Humanities [Lead]
2014 Collaborative Doctoral Award. Ph.D Scholarship. Arts & Humanities Research Council [Lead]
2013 Artworks: Changing the Conversation Development Grant. PAC: Participatory Arts Connect. Paul Hamlyn Foundation [Support]
2013 Springboard Grant. The Dugout Festival. The University of Brighton [Lead]
Art as Advocacy. Exploring curatorial practice by learning disabled artists as a tool for self-advocacy.
Over the past 20 years within the UK the concept of self-advocacy has gained momentum by enabling people with learning disabilities to speak out in order to affect change. In the same period, inclusive approaches have been taken up both in research and in the arts, reflecting a growing recognition of people with learning disabilities as researchers, artists, performers and communicators. Yet curation has only rarely been used as an inclusive practice and then principally in museums dealing with history (Open University, 2008; Museum of Liverpool, 2014; Access All Areas, 2017) rather than in the context of art galleries.
Via a practice-led research approach, Art as Advocacy addressed this gap by exploring the potential for participatory curatorial practice by learning disabled artists to act as a site for self-advocacy. It brought together members of self-advocacy group Halton Speak Out and members of Bluecoat’s inclusive arts project Blue Room, to curate the visual arts exhibition Auto Agents. These curators developed an exhibition theme, collaborated with artists, commissioned new artwork and designed accessible interpretation for audiences.
The purpose, through the curation of Auto Agents, has been to produce a rich account of the ways in which curatorial and self-advocacy practices intersect. It is intended that this research will contribute to a greater understanding of accessible and inclusive accessible approaches to curating, demonstrating there are ways to critically engage a wide demographic of people with what is often considered an exclusive job for the privileged few. Therefore, it is also hoped that this study speaks to wider conversations about the political work of the gallery, and is part of a growing trend in addressing how these spaces can be democratised.
Jade is currently the Director of Development at The Royal Standard, an artist-led gallery and Studio Complex in Liverpool. Jade is a feature writer for Disability Arts Online and a regular contributor for The Double Negative. Jade also works as an advisor for Positive You training, a creative course run by and for people with a learning difficulty to build self-esteem.