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Tactile Residency

grunt gallery Tactile Residency 2022-2023

The tactile residency is a dynamic opportunity that provides space for participants to explore non-visual and tactile (touch) responses to works in the grunt gallery exhibition space and archives. grunt gallery offers the tactile artist residency as a co-learning opportunity for its staff and community to explore how tactility can exist and play-out within predominantly visual spaces where touching and interacting with work is discouraged, forbidden, or not considered. For this prototype year,  we welcomed two local artists, Johnny “Tiger” Tai and Jen Yakamovich, as tactile artists-in-residence to engage with us in conversation around what it means to be non-visual within a visual arts community.

For the past season, we have been in conversation about the artists’ practices, what it means to be paid to work behind the scenes, and how to share knowledge without it being extractive; something that is common when institutions reach out for insight from the Disabled community. This program was designed to encourage artist growth and confidence, while being in conversation about the real barriers facing non-visual artists within visual arts spaces. We have benefitted as much, if not more, in having access to working Disabled artist, and hope to continue this program next year. In particular, inviting our residency artists to our accessibility committee and programming meetings has allowed us both to have candid conversations about access, but also provides artists a behind-the-scenes look at the structures within artist run centres so as to inform artists of what happens when they apply or submit work to exhibition spaces.

In April 2023, grunt gallery will be hosting a closed conversation, facilitate and lead by Carmen Papalia, around navigating the visual arts world non-visually. Invited participants from the Blind, Non-Visual, partially sighted, and low-vision communities will gather to discuss. Following this closed event, an edited transcript will be provided to the participants, and should we receive consent, the transcript may be shared more widely.

Building on the knowledge that has been shared by Jen and Johnny in this inaugural year, we hope to continue to support the growth of local Disabled and Blind, DeafBlind, Low Vision, and Partially Sighted artists and community members in an inclusive and supportive way.

Johnny Tai  (1982) is a Blind, partially deaf, emerging artist, musician and martial artist currently living in Richmond, British Columbia. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada in 1989. He went blind due to Steven Johnson syndrome at the age of three and lost hearing in his right ear shortly thereafter. His first foray into art was at a young age, recreating everyday objects (vacuums, tables, animals, etc) out of Lego, clay and other materials. In adolescence, he branched out with aluminum etchings and three-dimensional works in clay, wood and soapstone, leading to a scholarship from the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design (ECU) in 2000. He studied Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and received a Social Work degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2006. Due to his visual and hearing impairment, tactility is a core function of how he navigates the world. His current artistic practice focuses on tactile drawings on metal, and in making music. You may visit his website at

Jen Yakamovich (1993) is a drummer, composer, and improviser currently living and working on Coast Salish territories (Vancouver). Drawing from creative music and movement lineages and the environmental humanities, she  explores the relationship between sound, embodiment, and social ecology. She performs under the solo moniker “Troll Dolly.” She regularly plays drums for Niloo Farahzadeh, Walgrin (Tegan Wahlgrin), and Miguel Maravilla.  You may visit her website at

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grunt gallery Accessibility Committee

The above video is an ASL translation of the text below.

Over time, grunt gallery has explored and supported a wide range of practices including exhibitions, performances, online projects, public art, residencies, media- and time-based works, talks and symposia, publications and community-engaged practices. Our wide range of programming has always included the creation and dissemination of audio/ visual materials and online experiences. With a mandate to support artists and inspire public dialogues, we are committed to doing the work to create an environment that allows for accessible conversation. This aim informs how we develop and build our archive, engage with audiences and look to the future of our organization.

In Spring 2020, we created an Accessibility Committee composed of grunt staff and contractors and chaired by our Exhibitions Manager (and Accessibility consultant) Kay Slater. This committee gathers to audit and review systems, procedures, and policies of grunt gallery to identify, think through, improve, and share the way we show up in our public programming, exhibitions, and for our community. Over the past year, we have drafted guidelines for hosting online and hybrid events, video captioning and transcription, and have begun re-drafting contracts. In Spring 2021, we launched a series of captioning, transcription and non-auditory access workshops offered to our communities for free. This ongoing series includes a mentorship opportunity to learn captioning alongside experienced and practicing access professionals with an invitation for mentees to co-facilitate their own non-auditory access workshops designed specifically for their own communities.

We are informed by anti-oppression practices, a commitment to learning and sharing our findings, and a belief in social justice through the arts. We understand these processes take time, resources and long-term commitment.

If you have questions regarding this work, or suggestions for how we can do it better, please contact us at


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