Arts Centre Melbourne reveals next step for Alter State

The Arts Centre Melbourne Spire lit purple for International Day of People with Disability on 3 December photo by Tom BlachfordIn 2024, Alter State will be focussed on forging connections with First Nations Deaf and Disabled artists, Expressions of Interest (EOI) opportunities, and workshops, as well as a Disability led mainstage production.

“Our ambition is to alter the current state of the arts through creative intervention and through increased investment in Disability cultural leadership, to bring about cultural equity and systemic change,” said Alter State’s Creative Lead, Jodee Mundy OAM.

Jodee Mundy OAM joined Arts Centre Melbourne in May 2023 as Creative Producer of Access & Inclusion and was appointed the next Creative Lead for Alter State.

“Our hopes for Alter State 2024 are to curate a program that will ask all of us to envision… how can we make our Alter State a reality?” she said.

“What will it take for us all to grow Alter State from a Disability Arts initiative into a major Disability Arts festival that happens across Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific every two years and how are we going to get there?”

Alter State made a bold entrance in 2022 in partnership of Arts Centre Melbourne and Arts Access Victoria. The debut of the initiative was led by Caroline Bowditch, CEO and Artistic Director of Arts Access Victoria and Carly Findlay OAM, Joshua Pether and Rodney Bell as Foundation Artists.

After a Digital Launch in 2021, Alter State unfolded as a hybrid program from September to October 2022. Now entering year three of a ten-year partnership, Jodee Mundy OAM hopes to build on the foundations.

“The intention for Alter State 2024 is to gather D/deaf, Disabled, neuro-divergent, and chronically ill artists, together with the broader arts industry, through hybrid, accessible programming, and to explore our Disabled Futures; to collectively imagine how Alter State could look, feel, and sound like, now and beyond,” said Mundy.

“There will be also space for critical conversations for artists and arts professionals with the wider Creative Industries and a celebration of Arts Access Victoria’s 50th birthday,” she said.

The first creative collaboration for Alter State 2024 has been announced with Arts House presenting a third instalment of The Warehouse Residency.

Arts Centre Melbourne and Arts House are looking for a wide range of ideas and projects from Victorian-based performers and artists of any genre, curators, collectives, and their collaborators that show an inclusive and experimental approach to performance and art making.

The joint initiative was founded on organic collaboration and will provide the foundation for two new creative projects for development at Arts House in a supported residency model.

Expressions of Interest (EOI) submissions are open to apply for residencies taking place between June 2024 – June 2025. Submissions are open until Tuesday 23 January 2024.

Arts Centre Melbourne is also embarking on a period of profound transformation. As the organisation thrives to evolve, important initiatives continue to drive disability, access, equity, and inclusion.

As Australia’s largest performing arts centre, there is a need to make sure the experiences of the artists, visitors and staff are at the centre of decision making and action.

The release of the Disability, Equity & Inclusion Plan (DEIP) in 2021 has provided a catalyst. And now Arts Centre Melbourne is developing a roadmap for the future.

Inclusion Coordinator, Telia Nevile is working on the project and offers insight into its progress. “Since the release of our first Disability, Equity & Inclusion Plan, we have learnt from, and listened to the disability community,” said Nevile.

“Arts Centre Melbourne’s Equity & Inclusion Teams are focussed on facilitating changes that make Arts Centre Melbourne a welcoming and inclusive place for our audience, staff, artists and stakeholders.”

An intensive period of community consultation has highlighted areas for innovation, and Arts Centre Melbourne is now working on an organisation-wide plan.

“We have engaged external access consultant Morwenna Collett, who has worked with organisations such as the Sydney Opera House, the Australia Council, and Back to Back,” said Nevile. “Over the last five months we have been led by interviews and focus groups with both internal and external stakeholders.

“External stakeholders have included peak bodies, presenters, advocates, advisors, Alter State artists, project partners and audience members. Internally, representatives from 17 teams across Arts Centre Melbourne have contributed their thoughts and input.”

“We’ve also offered our team a range of opportunities to share their ideas and received a fantastic response to a visitor survey. After listening to our team, stakeholders and community, we’re about to start outlining action items, timelines and measurable outcomes,” she said.

Image: The Arts Centre Melbourne Spire lit purple for International Day of People with Disability on 3 December – photo by Tom Blachford