Sunday 22 May 2016

Being on the Board of an Art & Disability charity

the big blue doors...

I can't remember how many years ago it is since I walked in off the street to the Arts & Disability Forum (ADF). I'd seen the sign in its window, noticed it was an arts centre and wondered what it was about. And when I finally did make it through the big blue doors I was greeted by Gillian. She chatted about the ADF Award (now the iDA grant scheme) which helped disabled artists from the island of Ireland to fund art projects. So I went away and thought about that for about a year before finding my way back. 

framed fibreart and gourd 2005

I had acquired a disability, lost a good job, was on benefits and trying to find something that I could connect with. By the second time I called into ADF they had got a Gallery space organised and a Gallery Officer. And before too much time I was exhibiting art there in group shows.

solo Award show 'Ordered Chaos' 2008

Gillian explained the Award in more depth, gave me an application form and it would be another year before I filled it in. And I was successful, receiving grant aid to enable me to purchase an embellisher (machine felter) and a computerised sewing machine. Up until this point, at a p/t embroidery course, I had access to such machines for a few hours one day a week. With my own machines I could work at my fibreart any day of the week and at ten o'clock in the evening if that's when I had most energy. 

 'Guest' exhibition Dec'15 curated by Hugh Mulholland, Senior Curator at the Mac Arts centre,
assisted by Hugh O'Donnell and Eoin Dara, installed by Leo Devlin

In the ten years that I've been a member of ADF I've volunteered in the Gallery, attended events and through ADF exhibited locally and internationally. I was part of a small organisation that had done big things for me, the support I received has not only been financial but has helped me get my mojo back, enabled me to arrive at a place where I truly felt I was an artist. It was a long journey but that's what ADF does, supports artists to get to their destinations regardless of how long it takes.

I wanted to give something back and when I was asked if I'd consider sitting on the Board I thought long and hard. I'd never been on a Board before. But I stood for nomination, was elected and began to meet once a month in the Board room above the Gallery. If I'm honest, I spent a lot of the first months almost silent, listening to the discussions and raising my hand to vote when required. But as time went on I found my voice, slowly becoming an active Board member.

We usually meet every month or so for a two hour meeting with lashings of tea, coffee and the obligatory chocolate biscuits. DIscussion can be dry work. And when the need arises we can meet more frequently. Some of the board members are unemployed, some work, but each of us gives time freely to the governance of ADF.

EIleen Chan-Hu, Co-Founder of Craic NI, me & Chris Ledger, CEO at ADF

In recent years I've stood as Secretary, Chair and currently as Treasurer. We've worked hard as a Board, bringing our policies into line with current legislation and undertaking training to ensure our governance is sound, transparent and protective of ADF. It's a good feeling, being part of a support for the organisation that has supported its members in so many ways.

Tomorrow's blogpost: 'Favourite sticker makers'

Copyright © 2016 by Roisin O'Hagan/bloowabbit
All rights reserved. The artworks/illustrations or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the artist except for specific permission granted with a free downloadable.

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