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Ruth O'Brien by Grace Costa, 2016. Smiling woman sitting in an outside setting.

Meet the Accessible Arts team: Ruth O’Brien

Ruth O’Brien is the Project Officer (ACT) and focuses on assisting with the training of organisations in disability awareness.

You’re a vocalist. Can you tell us about the origins of your musicality?

I started singing when I was in high school. I had the opportunity to do an elective in vocal studies and swapped out of my outdoor education. I was terrified of singing in front of the class for the first time, but once I did, I had a real love for it straight away. I continued to study music all the way through high school and college, and from there went on to study at the Canberra Institute of Music and the Australian National University, primarily in jazz vocals and contemporary performance.

You’ve studied psychology and music and have an interest in business. That’s quite a combination. How do you pull these three together?

I’ve always been a people person and have wanted to support others through the arts and creative expression. As a teenager, I loved trying new craft projects, dancing, baking and learning new songs. I got such a rewarding experience just in the process of being creative, and knew that this was something I always wanted to do.

After I left school, I decided to study psychology to get a good qualification under my belt should the arts career thing not work out. But, I knew full well that after I completed this degree I was going to study music and pursue this passion.

As soon as I started to think about my career options as a teenager, I quickly realised that professional artists of any kind need to operate as sole-traders/businesses in most instances. So since then I’ve been continually educating myself about opportunities for artists, grants, mentorships and internships and reading news about anything related to having a career in the arts in Australia. I currently work as a freelancer in many different areas including being a performing artist, vocal teacher, creative career coach, event organiser and now, as a project officer for a few different disability arts projects in Canberra, ACT.

Ruth O'Brien by Grace Costa, 2016

Ruth O’Brien by Grace Costa, 2016

What excites or inspires you about working with Accessible Arts in the arts and disability sector?

There is a lot of work to do in this area to make the arts and cultural events more accessible to people with disability. Being an artist with disability, I have a lot of insight in this area through lived experience. However, I’m learning everyday about the vast array of access needs and see a lot of room for improvement, especially in Canberra. I feel that my combination of skills and experience will be useful to this project and assist with improving the accessibility of arts events in my hometown.

What will you be doing with Accessible Arts in Canberra?

Over the next two years, I’ll be the Project Officer for Accessible Arts in Canberra and assist in training arts organisations in disability awareness. This will include organising training sessions and events, liaising with arts organisations and building capacity of people with disability in Canberra through identifying people with disability to become trainers in the ACT region. I’ll also be recording and reporting on the outcomes of the project along the way.

Do you have time for any hobbies or special interests?

When I get the time (which has been limited lately), I like to do paper crafts and make miniatures. As an old lady (should I make it to that age!), I’d like to build dollhouses and make mini-lands in terrariums, bonsai plants and shoeboxes. I love watching TV series like Stranger Things, Ozark, crime dramas and other psychological thrillers.

To meet other members of the Accessible Arts team, visit here.

Feature image: Ruth O’Brien by Grace Costa, 2016

This page was first published on 21 November 2018.