Community

By Lauren Tighe

Feeling a little disconnected? Let’s reach out to each other. ‘Community’ presents three leading learning disability arts organisations that are bolstering community spirit by coming together for the x3 project which provide virtual exhibitions. The dynamic trio consists of ActionSpace, Project Ability, and Venture Arts. x3 will launch online on the 11th March 2021.

Together, ActionSpace (London), Project Ability (Glasgow), and Venture Arts (Manchester) possess over 100 years of experience nurturing creativity and sourcing opportunities for artists with learning disabilities. During the pandemic, they have continued to support each other and their artists, holding thousands of one-to-one and group sessions to enable artists to continue being inspired and supported during these difficult times.

Declan Leslie Untitled – ActionSpace London

‘Electric Dreams’ is the first exhibition, commencing on the launch, and hosted by Venture Arts. The exhibition takes inspiration from the inner world of the mind and dreamscapes, curated by Daniel Elms and Sally Hirst. The show will feature works from Daniel Elms, Declan Leslie, and Gary Turner; whom each express and interpret the them completely differently.

Daniel Elms expresses the theme through photography, depicting visions of longed-for natural beauty. Daniel works with pencil and drawing pens on canvas, as well as experimenting with photographs taken with his polaroid and phone. Taking inspiration from nature, maps, architecture, and different textures. One of the achievements that he is most proud of is having his work exhibited at the Lowry Gallery.

Gary Turner ‘Tippo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts’- Project Ability Glasgow

In contrast, Gary Turner expresses the theme from inspiration of Manga, and cartoon, surrealist visions. He is an experienced multi-disciplined artist, working with printmaking, ceramics, mask making, drawing, painting, and more. Gary’s love of contemporary comic, zine culture, fantasy sci-fi, Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese woodblock prints), and the natural world, influence his works; with wolves and Japanese inspired landscapes being common themes he explores. He has exhibited widely across the UK and abroad.

Whereas Decan Leslie, explores the dark nightmarish side of the mind and dreams. Declan’s art is all about storytelling, using a range of media including sculpture, drawing, painting, ceramics, model making, and digital film and animation. He choses whichever medium best suits the story he wants to tell. Declan’s drawings are very fluid, and he often centres his work around horror or grotesque themes with a twist of humour. Later this year Declan will be collaborating with artist Adrian Lee which will span across several art forms.

‘Electric Dreams’ Exhibition preview

Each piece will be described with a poem written by Sally Hirst. As well as being a writer, Sally is also a talented illustrator, textile artist, and ceramicist. Her inspiration comes from the themes of climate change and her love of animals. Sally has had several commissions for her illustrative work and has taken part in professional artist residencies at HOME and Walk the Plank. Some of her proudest achievements include having her work exhibited as part of ‘The Art of Now’ and ‘Perspectives’ at the Lowry Gallery, and ‘The Last Place on Earth’ at HOME. She also received a commission from Manchester City Council, who distributed her work to hundreds of young people with disabilities across Manchester. Sally’s future plans include studying at Manchester College for an Art Foundation, and continuing to work as an artist, undertaking artist residencies.

Sheryll Catto of ActionSpace comments: “ActionSpace is delighted to be part of this partnership project with Project Ability and Venture Arts, highlighting some of the enormously talented artists across our three organisations through this series of exhibitions. We hope this will introduce their work to new audiences and provide a platform for us to build on so we can continue to promote and advocate for artists with learning disabilities across the UK.”

“There are many artists working across the UK who have no access to the usual routes to building a career in the arts and few opportunities to have their work seen by audiences, “says Elisabeth Gibson of Project Ability. “Support studios working collectively and with shared values and respect for the artists’ work challenge this presumption and create opportunities for the artists to exhibit in public spaces.  Covid restrictions have moved the work onto digital platforms and offers further opportunities for the artists to gain wider exposure.  We are excited to be working with Venture Arts and ActionSpace to showcase artists who are little known to the public yet, whose work most definitely deserves to be seen.”

“We are thrilled to be working with our partners at ActionSpace and Project Ability on this exciting project and to provide a new platform to show the work of some of our many talented artists,” adds Amanda Sutton, director of Venture Arts. “The support of these partner organisations has always been so key to us but never more so than during the challenging and dark times of the pandemic. Together we have found ways to keep moving forward, to adapt and maintain the vital services being offered to our artists and continue to promote the incredible work being produced. This advocacy and exposure is more relevant and fundamental now than ever.”

The works of these talented artists and the words from ActionSpace, Project Ability, and Venture Arts provide us with inspiration and remind us of the importance of community. Together we are stronger and can get through even the most difficult times. If you enjoyed reading ‘Community’ you might also enjoy ‘Celebrate British’ Here. To find out more about ActionSpace and Declan Leslie click Here. To find out more about Project Ability and Gary Turner click Here. To find out more about Venture Arts, including information about Sally Hirst, Daniel Elms, and the x3 project click Here.