Making Together Exhibition: showcasing artwork created in a series of workshops

Person with their head in their hand and a lady sits behind supporting her.

The Making Together exhibition, in collaboration with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA), showcases art work created in a series of workshops at Touchbase Pears, Birmingham, co-produced by people with complex disabilities  and RBSA artists.

Making Together follows previous pioneering work with the RBSA in 2018, Connecting Creatively, and this latest exhibition includes artworks such as screen prints, paintings, tactile drawings, sculptures, and installations all to stimulate smell, touch, movement, sight and sound.

Artists Annette Pugh ARBSA, Karoline Rerrie, and Olivia Swinscoe NWA, collaborated with Sense participants to create the work. RBSA ARTIST Fran Currie observed two of the workshops and created beautiful paintings shown in the exhibition.  A particular favourite is of Sylvia being supported into a session by artist Jess Evans. It clearly captures her pace and timing into session and the level of care and support sense can offer. These images will be on permanent display at TouchBase and enjoyed for years to come!

Artistic designs on the wall with a variety of shapes, sizes, colours shown.
Artistic designs against the wall. Shows sticks which are painted with bright colours and decorated with wool and pom poms.

From the long lasting partnership between the two organisations, the artists felt supported to learn from participants and Sense Arts: looking past any disability to explore within the sessions – and, indeed, created from ‘a felt perspective’. Following guidance from the Sense Arts team, each artist incorporated a person-centered approach that enabled everyone to participate fully in the sessions. They were encouraged to choose and use art materials independently and sessions were delivered at a pace directed by the group. Bring part of a group, brought additional benefits beyond arts activities, including making new friendships and relationships and leaving each session with a positive sense of emotional and physical well-being.

Working with people who live with complex disabilities you have to prioritise the importance of what might be touched or felt- ‘sensed’ – rather than being something that could be seen or even heard.

Each week the artists created a bespoke environment for the groups so that they had the freedom to explore and work with different materials at their own time and pace.. Over the weeks the group  explored imprinting different materials onto the fabrics.

Our aim in all of the work we do is that there is a learning with and learning from; a ‘two way exchange’; a collaboration which valued the unique contributions’ that those with complex disabilities bring to the process of making ‘quality art’.

Karoline said: ‘Each work produced was totally unique. A workshop is very much taught on an individual basis. You work with each person a lot more closely.’

A wooden designed sculpture on the ground.

The exhibition is a celebration of inclusive arts practice and showcases the creative potential of people with complex disabilities, in ways that might be ‘meaningful for all those engaged in artistic practice.’

Installing the exhibition at  Touchbase gives the whole community  the opportunity to learn from professional artists without having to navigate unapproachable venues or be intimidated by social or behavioural norms. They can come away feeling self-assured, enthused and motivated by the work.

Through collaboration, encouraging diversity in our social groups and enhancing people’s  understanding of disability, the arts can help us tackle both disability preconceptions and accessibility, moving towards a fairer, more empathetic and more inclusive society.

The work will be on display at Touchbase Pears from Monday 25th March – Friday 28th June. It is free to attend!

Author: Sunney Sharma

Sunney Sharma is Arts and Wellbeing Manager at Sense.

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