The debut of Alter State in 2022 marked a significant moment for Arts Centre Melbourne. The major disability arts festival created an authentic pathway for Deaf and Disabled artists, organisations and allies from Australia and Aotearoa (NZ).
The festival was recently acknowledged at the 40th annual Green Room Awards. Caroline Bowditch, Alter State’s Creative Lead acknowledged the journey when accepting the Contribution to Sector and Community Award on 29 May.
“It was an amazing time last September, and it was many years in the making, that involved many, many, many people. I had the joy of being the Creative Lead for Alter State 2022, and that meant that I got to hang out at Arts Centre Melbourne and ask them really difficult questions all the time. And luckily they kept me, they didn’t kick me out, and we have a ten year partnership which is incredible,” she said.
“So this is the beginning, it is far from the end, and I want to acknowledge the partnership, I want to acknowledge the incredible team at Arts Centre Melbourne and at Arts Access Victoria, and all the other partnerships that were part of the festival last year.”
“Most importantly I want to acknowledge the significance and importance of the platform that this festival provides for Deaf and Disabled artists from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s really important, and this is an amazing recognition of all of those artists.”
Alter State involved over 100 Deaf and Disabled artists in more than 60 performances, conversations, films, and workshops. Training and workshops led by Arts Access Victoria improved best practice and supported a digital program, with 35% of the program accessible online.
“The debut of Alter State was a profound moment for Arts Centre Melbourne and acknowledgement at the recent Green Room Awards is a testament to the work of many,” said Arts Centre Melbourne Executive Director of Performing Arts, Melanie Smith.
“The concept was developed in collaboration with Arts Access Victoria, Creative Lead Caroline Bowditch and Foundation Artists Rodney Bell, Carly Findlay and Joshua Pether.”
“By design, the project invited a genuine exchange of ideas and aspirations, and this formed an honest foundation.”
“Alter State was a powerful catalyst in our journey towards a future of greater accessibility and inclusion. It was bold, ambitious and we are deeply grateful for the trust and reciprocity of all involved.”
The future looks even brighter with Jodee Mundy OAM joining as Creative Producer, Access & Inclusion.
The decorated creative contributed to Alter State with the documentary Imagined Touch. The film was a part of the digital program and recently screened at the Lincoln Center in New York. Mundy will now take a seat on the other side of the table, behind the scenes and in the creative engine room.
“Alter State is in an excellent position moving forward due to the incredible collaboration by all involved, the investments, partnerships, and the win of the Green Room Award,” she said.
“Recognition from the Creative Industries makes this a real win globally, and that Alter State is a major Deaf and Disabled arts festival in Australia and Aotearoa (NZ). It’s critical to remember that this festival is disability-led, which is a huge leap. This has come from decades of advocacy by Deaf, Disabled people and their allies.”
“Now that we have had a glimpse of what Alter State can be, festival by festival, year by year, we will continue to grow with more partners, to invest in more Deaf and Disabled artists so we can show audiences what inclusive creative leadership looks, feels, and sounds like, because we all experience the world differently.”
The success of Alter State and the ongoing works for Reimagining highlight the importance of equity. Arts Centre Melbourne aims to be an industry leader and is creating change from within.
“As a leading cultural institution, we know we play a critical role in creating a more inclusive and equitable arts industry and we aim to be a leader in this space,” said Arts Centre Melbourne Inclusion Coordinator, Telia Nevile.
“Our strategy reflects our commitment to the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’. This principle emphasises the need to involve people with lived experience in the development of the policies and programs that affect them. We want our team to reflect Victoria’s diversity and our offerings to provide meaningful experiences and drive positive change.”
More news on the future of Alter State and Arts Centre Melbourne’s progress in equity, access and inclusion is on the way.