Visiting Research Fellow
BA, MA, PhD
Jade French is a contemporary art curator and researcher based in Liverpool, UK. Jade has worked extensively alongside learning disabled people to explore the intersection of contemporary art, disability and social change, with a focus on issues of intellectual access and inclusion within museums and galleries. Her research currently explores inclusive curating and its role in initiating broader conversations around democracy and diversity in cultural spaces.
Jade French is an curator, facilitator and researcher who has been running participatory and inclusive arts projects since 2009. During this time Jade has worked extensively alongside learning disabled people to explore the intersection of contemporary art, disability and social change, with a focus on issues of intellectual access and inclusion within museums and galleries. Her research currently explores inclusive approaches to curating and commissioning art and their role in initiating broader conversations around democracy and diversity in cultural spaces. Jade is currently writing a book for Arc Humanities Press ‘Inclusive Curating in Contemporary Art: A Practical Guide’, as well as editing a second book ‘Intellectual Disability and Visual Art: A Critical Enquiry’ for publisher Palgrave Macmillan.
Jade’s practice has primarily taken the form of visual art exhibitions and public workshop programmes, but she has also produced a number of collaborative book projects, films and zines. She has worked with a variety of cultural institutions including Bluecoat, The Atkinson, Hull City of Culture and The Women’s Library, and in June/July 2018 she will be undertaking The Firestation Studio’s International Curator Residency in Dublin, Ireland.
In addition to her academic work, Jade is the Director of Development at The Royal Standard, an artist-led gallery and studio complex and an Associate Artist at The Turnpike. She has undertaken independent research evaluations and and reporting for organisations such as DASH, Artlink and Hull City of Culture 2017. Jade was the winner of The Double Negative’s and John Moore’s University critical writing competition ‘#BeACritic’ and was featured on University of Leeds’ ‘Women of Achievement’ roll for her contributions to socially-engaged arts practices.
Jade is a practice-led researcher whose research interests emerge from practical experience of running inclusive and participatory arts projects. Areas of interest include;
- Inclusive approaches to curating
- Inclusive and participatory arts practices
- Disability arts
- Access and inclusion in museums, galleries and heritage
- Disability and diversity in museums, galleries and heritage
- ‘Engagement’ and ‘participation’ in museums, galleries and heritage
- Co-production and co-design in cultural spaces
- Disability Studies and Self-Advocacy
- Arts and activism
- Zines and DIY culture
Placements in Context: Policy, Organisations and Practice Module – MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies/MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies
Research Projects & Grants
2017 Large Travel Grant. 33rd International Conference on Disability and Diversity. White Rose College of Arts & Humanities
2016 Large Travel Grant. 9th International Conference on the Inclusive Museum. White Rose College of Arts & Humanities
2015 #BeACritic. Arts Critic Development Award. John Moore’s University and The Double Negative
2014 Student Led Forum Grant. Arts and Social Change Network. White Rose College of Arts & Humanities
2014 Collaborative Doctoral Award. PhD Scholarship. Arts and Humanities Research Council
2013 Artworks: Changing the Conversation Development Grant. PAC: Participatory Arts Connect. Paul Hamlyn Foundation CI
2013 Springboard Grant. The Dugout Festival. University of Brighton
2017 Exhibitions Award. Ultra Wet. Fluxus
2017 Active Arts Grant. Risograph Printing Project. Empire Trust
2017 Awards for England. Working Together: Improving the Social Space at The Royal Standard Gallery. Big Lottery Fund
2017 Exhibitions Grant. And Yet It Moves. Henry Moore Foundation
2017 Mitie Foundation. Tool Donation to an Artist-Led Studio. Mitie
2016 Lead the Change. Positive You. Wellbeing Enterprises
Research Centres & Groups
Member of Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage
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 the Director of Development at The Royal Standard, an artist-led gallery and Studio Complex in Liverpool. She is a museum access and inclusion consultant, employed by museums including The Atkinson to develop inclusive programmes, spaces as well as delivering training to staff. Jade has undertaken independent evaluations and reporting for organisations such as Artlink and Hull City of Culture 2017.