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adorn, equip introduction

Black and white close-up of Mat Fraseradorn, equip is an exhibition which explores issues around the design of equipment and accessories used by disabled people. Consultation between disabled people and artists, makers and designers has inspired the production of beautiful, functional objects and thought provoking work.

Equipment for disabled people has traditionally been designed with cost and function as the main considerations. This leaves little room for aesthetic, social or cultural concerns. adorn, equip is part of a movement to change this. The exhibition profiles equipment and accessories that meet both the needs and the desires of the disabled people that use them.

Many of the exhibits in adorn, equip result from a groundbreaking process of collaboration between disabled people and artists, makers and designers. Personalised items tailored to the specific needs and tastes of individual disabled people have been produced. This has resulted in unique objects that reflect individual needs, desires and uses, and challenges existing approaches to design.

These creative partnerships have developed over time. The exchange of ideas and opinions has helped to re-examine attitudes towards disabled people. By offering client/artist relationships, the adorn, equip exhibition is a unique and challenging opportunity for artists, makers and designers to link their artistic work with real life situations.

The exhibits represent many aspects of day to day life and include ergonomic ceramics and glassware, fashion knitwear featuring subversive slogans, personalised mobility aids, such as sculptural crutches, contemporary orthopaedic slippers, medical aids such as silver inhaler holders, which feature poetic inscriptions, interactive sensory furniture, and much more.

This national touring exhibition is originated by The City Gallery, Leicester. It is the result of three years of research, partnerships and consultation with disability organisations and groups of disabled people. The project is the beginning of a long-term commitment by the Gallery to increase access to the visual arts and crafts. The overall project has three different parts: a touring exhibition, an audience development programme and a Year of the Artist Residency.

The City Gallery and Creative Arts Consultancy have worked with twenty groups of disabled people from Leicestershire to design specific education events and information material for adorn, equip as part of a unique audience development project.

A Year of the Artist residency (YOTA, a thousand artists working in a thousand places was a project set up by the Arts Council of England to celebrate the millennium) provided an opportunity for disabled artist Nicola Lane to work with a group of disabled people from the East Midlands. The resulting artwork is included within the exhibition. A scheme in collaboration with 27A Access Artspace Ltd provided opportunities for disabled people to work in a gallery environment and contribute to the organisation of the exhibition.

adorn, equip is a unique exhibition that has involved the time, knowledge and expertise of a great number of people, from its conception to its completion. Many thanks are due to all the participating artists/makers and their partnership clients, without whom this project would not have been possible, and Annie Delin, Ju Gosling, Mat Fraser, Creative Arts Consultancy, 27A Access Artspace Ltd, and The City Gallery staff, especially James Beighton and Mona Lisa Cook, for their professionalism, support and involvement in this project. We are also grateful for the financial support provided for the exhibition by The Crafts Council, East Midlands Arts and the Arts Council of England.

Sylvia Wright, Gallery Manager
Mark Prest, Acting Gallery Manager and Exhibitions Officer (Craft)
The City Gallery, Leicester

Thank you to James Beighton and Kathy Fawcett for their kind contribution to this introductory text.

Ju Gosling adds: Thanks to the generosity of curator Mark Prest, I have been privileged to have been involved in the development of the exhibition since 1999, when my website "My Not-So-Secret Life as a Cyborg" was included in the work-in-progress exhibition, and I gave the exhibition talk. adorn, equip is a revolution against the beige melamine which characterises much of disability design - a riot of colour, energy and infinite variety which mirrors the lives of the disabled people I know, and which contrasts sharply with the medicalised, commercial products that most disabled people are forced to accept in their lives.

Mark and I had always hoped to produce an online version of the exhibition, both in order to make it more widely accessible and to provide an educational resource. This became a reality in November 2001 during a residency at Oriel 31 during the showing of the exhibition, supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Cywaith Cymru-Artworks Wales and Powys County Council. Many thanks to them; to David Traynor and Greg Hughes of mac-1.net Ltd for loaning the necessary computer equipment and for sponsoring and hosting the website; to Martyn "Spider" Gosling for technical support; and to Foil Design for making the catalogue design and material available.

© The City Gallery, Leicester and the artists: 2001

This site was built by Ju Gosling aka ju90 during an artist's residency at Oriel 31 in November 2001

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