Finding the Way with Barnsley Civic

In this post artist Caroline Cardus reflects on the impact that Covid-19 had on her Here and Now project with The Civic, Barnsley and how her experience working with the team there has shaped both her approach to undertaking commissions and her realisation that reasonable adjustments are just that....reasonable!

I stayed in touch with the gallery team throughout the first lockdown as we pondered the question of how to redesign a face to face activity between a disabled artist and disabled participants when everyone is shielding and participants can’t access the internet. There were points when we thought face to face workshops might go ahead. I was scared because I was shielding too. It was a conflicted time for me. The nature of artist's residencies often mean community work is necessary. Yet the nature of my impairment means my immunity is low in any given year, and particularly during flu season. This is usually a hidden fear that I supress because it is not compatible with getting work. Yet supressing my fears rather than communicating them and asking for adjustments can be counterproductive to inclusivity. During the pandemic, the stakes became higher for everyone. Everybody who could work remotely did so. I felt I saw reasonable adjustments go mainstream when mainstream society was affected. However, I was fearful of the possibility of face to face workshops. Then the gallery told me the participants had the same fears as me - face to face workshops could be a risk for them too. This gave me the push I needed to discuss my own access more openly with The Civic, who were brilliant. We began talking about how we could work around access barriers to do the project remotely. Finding the solution together was incredibly important to me. It was a relief to know everybody was open to exploringnnew ways of working. Getting off the 'sacrifice work or sacrifice health' seesaw was refreshing - and exciting. The project took place with participants working on folded worksheets laid out like posterzines. One side had an introduction to the idea with some examples, and the other side was blank for people to work on. Each completed zine was photographed and sent to me for creative development. Providing safer access for disabled people may be a learning curve, but the most important part of the process is to be open to doing things differently.

Visual artist Caroline Cardus’s art practice focusses on creative activism. Her text based, subversive and graphic style practice brings forth frank, darkly humorous and powerful messages about the human impact of inequality and discrimination.