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Tactile Residency

October 4th, 2022

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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