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Introducing: The AaA Curatorial collective

The AaA Collective

Later this year, Bluecoat will host an exhibition curated by the AaA Collective as part of the Art as Advocacy project. The collective are five adults with learning disabilities, recruited from Halton Speak Out and Bluecoat’s own Blue Room project, will curate the exhibition but also carry out research and collaboration with other artists from around Liverpool. Here researcher and project facilitator Jade French introduces the project’s background. 

The next two blog installments will be put together by the AaA Collective themselves. These blogs will reveal to audiences for the first time the group’s unique approaches to curating. Jade French explains more.

Over the past twenty 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 arts practice has developed, reflecting a growing recognition of people with learning disabilities as artists, performers and communicators, yet curation has rarely been used as an inclusive practice and then principally in museums dealing with history rather than arts contexts.

Art as Advocacy is a three year study funded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Award.  The question at the heart of this study; ‘How might people with learning disabilities acting as curators support the aims of self-advocacy?' requires a practical approach to its investigation, supported by research partners the University of Leeds, Halton Speak Out, a self advocacy group, and Bluecoat.  Ultimately it is intended that this research will contribute to a greater understanding of curatorial practice as a political act, broader expressions of ‘speaking out’ by people with learning disabilities, and of inclusive audience experiences.

Joseph Cotgrave Installation

Since January 2016 five adults with learning disabilities – Leah Jones, Hannah Bellass, Eddie Rauer, Tony Carroll and Diana Disley - have begun a unique curatorial journey.  Recruited from Halton Speak Out and Bluecoat’s own Blue Room project, this curatorial collective named ‘AaA’ are now part way through curating their own exhibition due to open at Bluecoat in November this year.  So far the group has visited a vast variety of arts spaces across the city in order to learn and be inspired by different curatorial styles.  As well as visiting art galleries, they have also begun inviting local artists to collaborate with them in their studio as a way to further reflect on different arts practices.  Recently Joseph Cotgrave, a member of The Royal Standard, visited the group and together they created a vibrant multi-sensory installation inspired by Cotgrave’s own work.

Autonomous Agents

Over the next month the group will begin narrowing down their exhibition theme in order to select artworks to be featured in the show.   The collage titled ‘Autonomous Agents’ made collaboratively by the group acts as a starting point, visually mapping their thinking on what the exhibition may be about.  When the art is selected they will then work with the artists to develop interpretation and a range of engagement events for audiences during the exhibition.  As traditional curatorial methods are on the whole inaccessible, the curators on this project must employ increasingly creative and participatory means in which to understand, interpret, make choices about, and display artworks.  

Check back soon to read the next two installments, out together by the AaA Collective.


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