View all news

Artist wants to make a difference in the lives of people with a disability


10 April 2006
When you visit one of Jan Oliver's art exhibitions, don't be surprised if you are asked to put on a blindfold.

This Byron Bay artist, who has just won a prestigious Southern Cross University fellowship, wants you to engage all of your senses when appreciating art.

"Art doesn't have to be just a visual experience," said the winner of the annual $5000 John and Sheilagh Kaske Memorial Fellowship, which seeks to help artists make the transition from study to professional work.

"Art can be tactile, sensual, aromatic and auditory as well as visual.

"I want people to engage all of their senses and putting on a blindfold can sometimes change people's perceptions."

Jan's work focuses on making art an inclusive experience for everyone in the community.

"Many people with a disability, including those with visual impairment, often miss out on experiencing art, either as a viewer or as an artist," she said.

"I think this is a reflection of how our society marginalises people with a disability and excludes them from everyday, ordinary experiences.

"We have a great resistance to accepting difference and yet diversity and difference contribute to cultural richness.

"So many people want to be accepted by the mainstream, even when they don't accept its values.

"My work focuses on trying to break down these barriers to the acceptance of people's differences and on reducing the marginalisation of people who are perceived as being different."

Jan's scholarship will allow her to travel in Australia and New Zealand for the next 12 months, working with people with disability who are interested in developing their skills as artists.

A major part of her project will be a residency with an innovative New Zealand organisation, the Hauraki Trust, which supports people with a disability in an holistic way to integrate every aspect of their life including their employment, education, health, leisure and artistic expression.

She is also working collaboratively with Professor Judy Atkinson, head of SCU's Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, on a joint contribution to the upcoming major exhibition, Interrogating Whiteness.

Other Kaske Award winners are Madeleine Jones, Anita Lord, Martha Beasley, Lisa Wise, Michael Moynihan, Caitlin Reilly and Alex Collerson.

Photo opportunity: All award recipients will receive their prizes at a special ceremony on Tuesday, April 11, at 5pm at the Next Art Gallery, Goodman Plaza, SCU.

About the Kaske Awards: Established by the late John and Sheilagh Kaske. Awarded to Visual Arts students (two each in painting, ceramics, printmaking and sculpture worth $500 each and one $5,000 fellowship to the graduating student with the most outstanding performance).

Media Contact: Zoe Satherley, SCU Media Officer, 02 66203144 or 0439 132095.