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Matkalla – On the go! Mentoring artists and educating gatekeepers to pave career pathways of disabled artists

Matkalla - On the go! Mentoring artists and educating gatekeepers to pave career pathways of disabled artists is a kickstart project funded by Kone Foundation. The aim is to prepare models to promote the inclusion of disabled and Deaf artists in the art field. Potential tools are artists’ mentoring or peer support and learning among colleagues, as well as educating gatekeepers on disabled people’s issues and diversity, and creating a network around the topic.

What we intend to do

  • Map out mentoring models in the arts - also internationally - and reflect what could work in support of artists with disabilities 
  • Create models of mentoring, peer support, and learning among colleagues and start making them available to people with disabilities to pave the career pathway of art students and artists 
  • Educate art institutions and gatekeepers on disabled people’s issues and diversity 
  • Create a network around the topic 
  • Organize a seminar on the topic and encourage public discussion 
  • New models are being sought in this project. To continue the work the aim is to embed the models into art education and art structures with a new project funding. 

The project length is March 2020 – February 2021.

Matkalla-hankkeen logo.Background

In Finland, possibilities for disabled people and people using sign language to work professionally in the arts and cultural field are limited, often nearly impossible. An art-oriented person with a disability or coming from the deaf community often finds themselves in the role of a lonesome pioneer in their studies and work, while they should have the opportunity to grow and develop as an artist. 

When education and employment are not accessible, disabled and Deaf artists are also shut out from creating networks in the field. Other signs of professionalism that have been difficult for artists with disabilities to access include professional education, membership of artists' communities and organizations, equal pay for artistic work, teaching positions and decision-making positions as curators, peer reviewers etc. The need for support can as well be related to very practical accessibility issues. For example, it can be impossible to fill out a grant application form using technical aids, or many work spaces may be physically inaccessible. 

There is a clear need for mentoring, peer support and shared learning. Mentoring allows artists to gain new perspectives, positive experiences and self-confidence in their learning and work. Mentoring can help artists understand their own placement in the art field: where to find networks and how to get involved. The aim of Matkalla – On the go! -project, which prepares models for mentoring and other support, is to create opportunities for artists who are disabled in various ways and therefore struggling in the margin, and to make space for their agency, when needed. 

Another part of the project is educating art institutions and gatekeepers. We know through studies and discussions that the art field needs ways to recognize disabled people’s issues and to build different approaches that take into account the diversity of abilities. 

The project has arisen from the need to provide more in-depth information and education towards a more open definition of cultural agency and awareness of diversity. We desire to accelerate equality in art education and other public services in the cultural field, so that these services are accessible and work for everyone in a respectful way. In educating art institutions and gatekeepers, the aim is to provide more information on diversity, equity and critique on normativity.

Project coordinator Maija Karhunen tells about the project On the go! and about the challenges disabled artists face. The video was Maija's speech at #StopHatredNow seminar 11th May 2020.

The network

  • cultural actors in the disability sector 

  • cultural actors in the sign language community 

  • disabled artists - already working as artists, as well as emerging artists 

  • art educators 

  • experts in mentorship and peer support 

  • actors who promote equality and equity in the art field 

  • art institutions and gatekeepers such as producers, funders, student selectors, peer reviewers, curators, critics, art administrators 

  • social service providers of disabled people’s support and services 


Advisory board

  • Liisa Jaakonaho, University of Arts
  • Noora Karjalainen, theatre artist
  • Minna Kettunen-Enberg, actor
  • Kati Kivinen, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
  • Anne Korhonen, Vates Foundation
  • Rosa Kuosmanen, The Artists’ Association of Finland
  • Ulla Lassila, Arts Promotion Center Finland
  • Päivi Lilja, Kettuki
  • Johanna Mattila, EUCREA Finland
  • Sanni Purhonen, poet and critic
  • Kati Raatikainen, choreographer
  • Katriina Rosavaara, Equal Artists
  • Elina Tapio, Humak University of Applied Sciences


Contact information

Senior Specialist
Sari Salovaara
040 931 3958

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