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Universal Access Artist in Residence

Artspace is committed to ensuring the arts are accessible to everyone. In 2019, we launched the Universal Access Residency. This residency was made possible through the actions of our Operations + Finance Manager, Megan Sullivan. In 2018, Sullivan received The Betty Siegel Universal Access & the Arts Award; the award recognizes the substantial achievements of Arts Learning Community for Universal Access members who complete all three years of the program. Sullivan chose to use the grant included as part of the award to fill a need in our community for an artist residency exclusive to artists who identify as having a disability. The Universal Access Residency was designed to be flexible and can be easily modified to accommodate different disabilities.

Our first Universal Access resident, Katie Shaw, will move into Artspace at the end of April 2019 and stay through the month of May.  

Katie Shaw, 2019 Universal Access Artist in Residence

Residency: April 29 – May 31
Exhibition: June 7 – 29

Artist Talk + Tour with Katie Shaw
Saturday June 8, 12pm


Katie Shaw, Oct No 11

Interview with Katie Shaw

Artspace: Have you participated in other residencies specifically designed for people who identify as having a disability? If not, have you participated in typical residencies since your diagnosis?

Katie Shaw: In 2014, I spent a month at Vermont Studio Center. The residency was inclusive of people at all stages of their careers, educational and professional backgrounds, and nationalities. While it was not designed specifically for people with disabilities, it was easy to navigate. The housing, studios, and dining accommodations were in close proximity and accessible. The local art store was directly across the street. They were able to assign both my studio and living space to the first floor of each building. They’re currently updating their Access Implementation Plan in accordance with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to regular fellowships, they frequently offer fellowships to artists with sensory and mobility disabilities.

A:  Does having a residency specifically designed for people who identify as having a disability add value for you or are typical residencies fine too?

KS: Yes and no. There are so many different formats for residencies. I’m certain there are some that I would love to attend but would not for practical reasons. This may have applied before my diagnosis as well. These days I really have to consider the basics. Does the studio have functioning climate control? Is access to reliable public transportation readily available? How far will I need to travel between the studio and living accommodations each day? Will I be able to meet the expectations of the residency without depleting my physical energy? Is the residency/organization willing to make reasonable accommodations? Will I be able to be of service to the community? There’s the financial component too. Medical treatment is incredibly expensive.

A: Talk a little about the artwork you will be working on during your residency. What can visitors to your studio expect to see?

KS: I plan to work on a couple of, reasonably sized, geometric, wall mounted sculptures at Artspace. There’s a two-dimensional component to this work as well; some hand drawn and some digital. It’s a continuation of a body of work I’ve been developing over the past few years. There’s a possibility I may be making some cyanotypes. Visitors will see some of my previously completed work and different workstations for new pieces in my studio.

A: Talk a little about the motivation and inspirations for the work you make. Include a little about the materials you work with and why.

KS: You know, I really don’t have a specific motivation for making art. It’s something I’ve been engaged in my entire life. It’s just the way my brain is mapped out. I imagine it’s not dissimilar to people who are passionate about math or science. It’s an area of study where they thrive. Sometimes inspiration is in the form of a word or feeling; other times it’s seeing scaffolding on the United States Capitol building in Washington DC. In January 2019, I turned a small portion of my studio into a greenhouse; it’s provided some rich lessons on process and timing. There’s a common thread and potential in all these things. Inspiration comes from things that are morphing and changing in some way. I’ve got a few core ways of making. There’s a lot of repetition and reconfiguration involved. I tend to combine and interchange two-dimensional and three-dimensional components: digital printmaking, drawing, painting, and sculpture. Right now, I’m using a variety of basic building materials including hardware cloth, screen, wire and wood in combination with drawings and digital prints. There are some other materials too such as magnifying sheets, metallic tape, and organza. All the materials are altered by hand. It’s a reciprocal process. 

A: Does being an artist with a disability affect the work you make or the way in which you make your work?

KS: Yes. It’s definitely changed the way I think about making work. Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable disease; the symptoms can vary from day to day and sometimes within 24 hours. At this point, in my disease process, I always know it’s there. It can be limiting. However, there have been some silver linings that accompany having nonnegotiable limitations. I’m learning to be more humble and try to be rooted in the present. I’ve found comfort in simplifying my life including my studio practice. I’ve let go of a lot of ideas I had about ambition and success; this has allowed me to really focus on the quality of my process and completed pieces. It takes me a lot longer to complete work these days so each project has to be something that I can and want to commit too.

A: Talk about the community component to the work you’ll have during this residency. What types of volunteers are you looking for and what will they be helping with?

KS: I designed the sculptures keeping in mind that the studio was open to the public and to create an open space for dialogue. There are some sections of the sculptures that are going to be “beaded”. The beads are going to be made from small (repurposed) plastic tubes, metallic tape and paper. I’ll be making my own findings too. It would be great to have some help making the beads and then fastening them together. The goal is to create fabric like structures. I’ll have a table set up with all the necessary supplies and patterns for people to follow. Conversation is welcome! One of the benefits of participating in a residency is the opportunity to make new connections with people. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.


Katie Shaw, Oct No 13


Katie Shaw, Cleft, detail