I worked within this large centre for five years. Within that duration I individually facilitated an Art program to support and develop vulnerable adult's capabilities and aspirations, relevant to their individual needs. Through these sessions I attempted to utilize and adapt my own learned skills while assessing individuals abilities by a selection of exercises. The art program I try to provide involves the process and product of imaginative activity (through mark making and discussion) while providing a safe, confidential environment where it is possible for the individual to discover, explore and share (if wanted) the meaning their images or objects may hold for themselves. Initially confidence was minimal, as previously art work was not seen as viable upon ability and therefore seldom celebrated or encouraged. To qualify as art, the focus by many (staff and service users) had been upon a finalized, representational aesthetic. Seldom the process or emotional involvement and connection. So engagement and discussion with individuals progress or desired outcome was lacking due to understanding.
Service users busy on individual canvases.
Throughout the workroom is a mixture of developing styles. These can be continued and discussed when the service user chooses.
Our work has been celebrated at exhibition too. Four images have been selected through a judged panel. No indication of artists having learning disabilities was deliberately made.
Our evolving studio area was an old woodwork room which we utilized to cater for each individuals heightened curiosity upon our new activities. This was a quiet, reassuring environment, where clients were now encouraged to experience and experiment with differing media. My initial concern was with chosen participation and enjoyment of clients, offset by their cautionary approach to new materials and a new working method that emphasised processes. Almost by accident and to increase enthusiasm and vitality of stated experiments I exhibited and celebrated each throughout the room. This exposed such an assortment and wealth of imagery and colour, it couldn't be ignored. Service users of vastly differing abilities and temperament were gaining confidence, self awareness and heightened concentration. The interest and success made the work viable to management as we began to produce and combine works for purchase, exhibition and as therapy. These openly discussed images were deemed life by the input of the producing artist and my individual engagement. Information and imagery was being gained from initially introverted individuals. My involvement was to provide stimulation but not a presumed expectation of outcome; I attempted to hint at a possible direction as they explored their own creative capabilities.
The work produced is always dictated by the individual service user and adapted to a person centred belief. For example: Will the client need support to achieve their goal with application of media? If so, mark making can also be achieved by dripping, splattering or blowing paint, not necessarily just by brush. These processes also help relax inhibitions as individuals engage with playful, less suppressed mark making. However if precision is desired masks and basic printing methods have been used.
I have tried to make the workroom as accessible as possible to all, operating on an "open door policy". This has gained a successful, dedicated following throughout the centre. Works are produced typically on canvas, with stretchers being manufactured and assembled by myself and supported clients. As earlier stated, due to interest, work has been produced specifically to initiate financial funding for further materials and excursions. We have exhibited and sold in local art galleries (an exhibition curator purchasing two), fayres and throughout Doncaster Council House. Within the two years, this has been a financial and therapeutic success, generating engagement, confidence, pride, hundreds of complex images and in excess of a thousand pounds.
However not all imagery has been produced with the intention of sale. Many personal work is undertaken with private exploration. These works are filed and discussed with the individual artist and myself. Please see a very brief selection of our purchasable work through our gallery link:
Julian Mably BA (hons) Fine Art