German Diversity Day: How inclusive is the world of culture? | Taiwan news

Disability is multidimensional. There are many varieties, from mental to physical disabilities. In film, television and the arts, people with disabilities have become increasingly present in recent years, and many artists who themselves are disabled speak openly about it.

From Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who suffers from achondroplasia, a genetic condition that affects bone growth, to pop icon Billie Eilish, who has Tourette syndrome, to painter Yayoi Kusama, who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, more famous actors, Artists and musicians with physical or cognitive problems take the spotlight.

Diversity these days

In Germany, too, something is changing in the world of culture. Jutta Schubert, project manager at Eucrea, an association for disabled art and artists in German-speaking countries, sees some progress. notes that today, diversity is no longer limited to people with a migrant background or people with a sexual orientation, but also includes people with disabilities.

“In Germany, people with disabilities have been completely forgotten or overlooked for a very long time,” Schubert told DW. He says one reason is that most federal funding programs for cultural institutions focus on other groups. “People with disabilities have only really been at the center of the diversity issue for, I would say, a year or two.”

Integration in theaters

Today, he says, it is clear from calls for tenders for art projects such as the “Performing Arts Fund” or the German Federal Cultural Foundation that the issue of diversity is viewed more comprehensively.

“Institutions understand that they can provide financial support if they employ people with disabilities or promote accessibility,” explains Schubert.

Recently, the German Federal Cultural Foundation launched a new program called “spike”, which specifically aims to promote projects in this field. It aims to facilitate long-term cooperation between theaters and integration groups, and also includes a mentoring program. “Such a development would have been unthinkable eight or ten years ago,” explains Schubert.

In addition, more and more cultural institutions are taking their own initiatives in the area, especially in the theater sector. Schubert referred to the Munich theater company Kammerspiele, which consists of six people with disabilities. Other theaters are also interested in hiring people with disabilities for productions or even employing them permanently and including them in the company.

Changes in the film industry

The film industry is also paying more attention to diversity. To create realistic portrayals, German production companies such as UFA use actors with disabilities. In doing so, they refer to the EU Platform of Diversity Cards created in 2010.

“When German production companies look for actresses or actors for roles that depict, for example, a person in a wheelchair with a migrant background or someone with fragility, more care is taken not to cast actors without disabilities.

The German film industry was inspired by events in the United States, where actors such as RJ Mitte (from “Breaking Bad”) and Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) made careers for themselves.

Even if they do not act as disability activists, Schubert regards them as role models. “Peter Dinklage is very open about his disability and also sometimes in interviews talks about what changes need to happen.” According to Schubert, this openness positively affects the acceptance of people with disabilities in society.

An exhibition for artists with intellectual disabilities

In addition to the theater and film industry, the museum landscape is also changing. An example is the 2017 Art and Alphabet exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. It presented the work of Harald Stoffers, a successful Hamburg painter with cognitive impairment. “The painter, who only writes, designed a whole room there,” says Schubert.

A special award was created in Germany in 2000 for people with intellectual disabilities who create art. The Augustinum Foundation awards ‘Euward’ – a made-up word that combines ‘Europe’ and ‘award’ – every three years to European artists. Among other things, the three honorees receive an exhibition of their work at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, which ensures the visibility of their work. This year, the Euward Prize will be awarded again.

Integration of people with disabilities in the profession

One of the biggest obstacles for people with disabilities is entering the arts and culture business. “Just a few years ago, for drama schools, disability was an exclusion criterion,” says Schubert.

However, he adds that schools are becoming more and more open. The association she works for has initiated its own program promoting integration in arts education. So far, universities with visual and performing arts programs from five German states have participated. In 2024, the program is to be extended to other federal states.

When Schubert compares all the integration efforts in the cultural sector that have been undertaken in Germany in recent years with those in neighboring countries and even in the UK, he concludes that “there is still a lot of catching up to do” in this country.

This article was originally written in German.

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