Geek in residence – Australia Council Grant

6 February 2013

Arts Access Victoria has been successful in their application for the Australia Council’s Geek in Residence Program!

The Australia Council for the Arts’ Geek in Residence program supports organisations to employ geeks to deliver dynamic digital initiatives across their organisation and its community. The geeks provide skills, information and connections needed to succeed in the digital era.

In keeping with the commitment of Arts Access Victoria to create more leadership opportunities for artists with a disability, the project will be led by musician and digital artist, Akash Temple, supported by two other talented artists with disabilities who are both very techno-literate and who each have established links to specific disability communities: Ross Onley-Zerkel, writer, arts producer and coordinator of Deaf Arts Network who publishes regular e-newsletters and blogs in Auslan for the deaf community; and Kath Duncan, performer, visual artist and coordinator of Heist e-gallery.

Our project manager (geek), Akash Temple, is an artist with a disability and a self-professed technology geek. Akash is a person with autism, who has used technology as his bridge to the world. His knowledge of new and emerging technologies is profound, as he successfully navigates life via his iPad, multiple computers, digital recorders and a wide array of gizmos and gadgets that make the mind boggle. He is rarely without a piece of equipment in his hand, and our office has become an impromptu studio set, complete with green screen, as Akash records his vox pops of the latest disability issues. Over the years that Akash has worked as a contractor with Arts Access Victoria, he has transformed projects by identifying innovative and practical technology solutions to access dilemmas, as well as bringing a highly developed technical eye for production that lifts project outcomes to new heights.

Whether it is the creation of a new font to enable Teagan O’Connor, an artist with autism, to tell her stories in her own language, adapting software to create our own in-house captioning system for digital products to allow access for deaf people, or creating new apps with freeware so that SOS West can make and record their own music in their living room (as some of these artists cannot move from their homes), Akash has successfully applied his technology expertise across a range of projects. His approach to technology has created new and unique ways to engage artists who otherwise may feel trapped in their homes, as is the case with many artists who experience significant mobility impairment or acquired brain injury, or trapped in their minds, through autism and Aspergers.

Together, the project team bring an extended network of artists and arts aficionados with a disability from which to draw for this project. For example, Kath is the co-convenor of the DDART network, a newly established national network of artists with a disability. This project team will be situated in the Arts Program of Arts Access Victoria, and report to the Arts Development Manager. They will work within a larger team of five Arts Development Officers and more than 50 contract artists who work in community settings. The placement of the project within this team gives Arts Access Victoria maximum opportunity for sharing of knowledge and staff development.

This program will also develop the new Living Art eZine  to become a  key publication within the disability and arts community.

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