We are all artists.
We developed our Visual Arts Course in partnership with Tate, Slaughterhaus and Block 336 for people who access learning disability or mental health support services, staff, family and carers. Vaia, Activity Coordinator for My Breaks, updates us on how the course went and, most importantly, what we can learn from having these courses exist in the first place.
I have previously been involved in similar projects elsewhere, led by disabled facilitators and artists. What set this course aside, however, is that staff and carers were invited along to participate too. Jake ensured that the vision of an inclusive group was met and that equal opportunities and access for all those interested remained the highest priority.
But what did this actually mean?
In my eyes, it meant we were all learning. While some of us were facilitating or supporting or teaching, we were all in a position to learn from one another and from the galleries we visited; artists with learning disabilities, for example, were teaching me the best way to mix paint, how they looked at a painting and sharing creative thoughts.
We were all teachers, and we were all students.
We encouraged and supported one another, took ownership of our work and creative decisions and gave everyone the ability to have their voice heard. In other words: you choose which brush you use, whether you want to draw my face or the jacket hanging on the wall, and what colours you use in your painting.
Art reflects the person creating it, nobody else, and it’s only when it hangs on the wall of an art gallery that it means something to someone else. Until then, it’s yours and yours alone.
Seeing one of our staff, Victoria, supporting Chris and enjoying the creative time they spent together was inspirational.
“It was a real privilege to support Chris through this visual arts course. This was the most relaxing, inspirational experience and a wonderful way to lose and find yourself, all in one moment. It’s an experience we would both very much like to do again.” Victoria
Victoria would tell me every week how she had started painting at home, buying art supplies, canvases and feeling sincerely excited about her next creation. Martin went even further by expressing how certain pieces of art had helped him to acknowledge upsetting moments and worries in his life, showing how significant art can be when it comes to matters of the heart.
Finally, Andy Kee showed us that disabled people can and will realise their ambitions in life; sometimes all they need is the right support.
Andy says he was “lucky enough to receive the right support and, without that, would most probably still be stocking shelves at the supermarket.”
So, returning to my initial question: what did this course actually mean? It means that people were able to come together and share both hope and passion. It means courses like this Visual Arts Course need to happen again and again.
Most of all, it means we are taught a vital lesson: with the right support, we can all be artists.
Thank you from the heart to everyone involved, from galleries to those who attended. Please take the time to visit our tumblr feed, as well as enjoying this brief video that follows our journey throughout the course.
“As the arts develop, so do the people.” Andy Kee