Jane Trengove: What inclusive arts practice means to me Speech delivered at Arts Access Victoria’s Beyond Access resources launch at Melbourne Town Hall on Wednesday 20 May 2015. Today I was asked to talk to you about what inclusive practice means to me. Well, what it means to me as an artist with a disability, and what I hope it might mean to others who are interested in the arts, is that inclusive practice is a way to bring in new ideas, methods, perspectives and audiences to the mainstream. By this I do not mean lowering the standard of arts practice to be inclusive of everyone in a patronizing tolerance of less good art. Art is derived from a long cultural history with its own traditions, practices, technique, skills concepts and ideas. Therefore, inclusive arts must be able to sustain a level of practice that will proficiently stimulate and engage audiences. And at the same time it should mean the broadening of how art is understood by artists, the arts institutions and audiences. I was also asked: Can mainstream methodologies of creation and curation accommodate an inclusive practice? We need to be clear about what is meant by “the mainstream” in the context of what this project [Beyond Access; the creative case for inclusive arts practice] is aiming to achieve. When we say “mainstream” we mean to infer art practice at all levels and where the majority of arts practice takes place. This includes the powerful bureaucracy that officiates over contemporary art. So there is a need for the mainstream to have the will to be inclusive. And this will always depend on the gatekeepers. No matter how interesting an idea or an artist, those with their hands on the levers always decide what is, or is not, included. And with “inclusive” arts practice – it takes a bit of effort and a change of thinking in the predominant cultural spaces, places and industries. Yet when difference is given a place in the mainstream – audiences are responsive and positive feedback very forthcoming. Art is often said to be transformative and has the capacity to affect our critical thinking. Art is at its best when it reveals our world to us in ways of which we may not have been aware. And where all people, no matter what stripe, who wish to create art, can do so with potentially a meaningful career of cultural contribution. My thanks to Arts Access Victoria and Melbourne University for taking the initiative to explore and expand understanding of the cultural value of artists with disability. Jane Trengove, Melbourne-based visual artist, was the subject of one of the video case studies in the Beyond Access research project. She also served on the steering group for the project. You can view am edited version of Jane’s video interview here.