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The Undercover artist story

Undercover Artist exists to profile and promote outstanding work by performing artists with disability.

The idea for Undercover Artist Festival was developed by Access Arts in consultation with Access Arts participants, a range of artists experiencing disability, and the arts workers who work with them.

Collectively these artists and individuals expressed a need for more opportunities for professional performing artists with disability to present their work, and better representation in the industry, particularly by Australia’s major performing arts companies.

In 2015, the inaugural Undercover Artist Festival was led by founding Festival Director Belinda Locke, a role which was then taken on by Harmonie Downes for the following festival in 2017. Both women are professional arts practitioners who identify as experiencing disability.

Artists from across Australia gathered on Turrbal and Jagera Country at Queensland Theatre in Brisbane to showcase their work at this festival. Accessible to all artists and audiences, the festival features theatre, dance, music and cabaret performances, works-in-progress, installation art, stand-up comedy, workshops, and forums.

Due to be held in 2020, the biennial Undercover Artist Festival was postponed due to coronavirus and social distancing requirements. The Festival will now be held in September 2021.

To fill the gap left by the event cancellation in 2020, Access Arts has curated Undercover Artist:Online, a showcase of works in development under consideration for the Festival in 2021.  Each of these works has received an Undercover Artist grant from Access Arts.

Over three incredible days, 16-18 September 2021, Undercover Artist Festival returned with a bang. Meanjin – Brisbane rolled out the red carpet to welcome the boldest and brightest artists with disability to the stage.

In 2022 we continue the work of Undercover Artist:Online, with a series of professional development workshops for performing artists with disability and who are d/Deaf.

The purpose of the workshops is to provide skills that may be inaccessible to artists through traditional training modes, in an effort to support more artists with disability to build their arts careers.