Conversations Series II: Other Transmissions

Until April 2019 I was at the Creative Producer at Venture Arts in Manchester, UK. It is a progressive visual arts charity, working alongside learning disabled artists to create and show exciting new collaborative visual art. The organisation’s vision is to see learning disabled people play a valued and valuable role within arts and culture as artists, critics, audiences, advocates and workers.

The six residency artists with myself on left, and facilitator James Pollitt on right. Photo: James John Lynch

The six residency artists with myself on left, and facilitator James Pollitt on right. Photo: James John Lynch

From October 2018 - February 2019 I organised and led on a residency programme in Manchester. Six artists with and without learning disabilities met once a week as part of a residency led by Venture Arts, in collaboration with Castlefield Gallery and the Whitworth. Conversations Series II: Other Transmissions saw three learning-disabled artists from Venture Arts work alongside three artists from the North West of England selected through an open call-out. The artists were: Joe Beedles, James Desser, Amy Ellison, Frances Heap, Andrew Johnstone and John Powell-Jones. Six third year Graphic Design students from the University of Salford documented the project throughout using photography, filming and drawing. The resulting works were debuted at Tate Liverpool as part of a Tate Exchange event, and then traveled to the gallery space at Artlink Hull. A special live performance was held at Paradise Works in Salford on 28 June and the works will next travel to the University of Salford’s New Adelphi Building Gallery in October 2019. From here the works will be shown at two other venues in the north west.

The Whitworth’s Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection was used as a starting point for the six artists. This stemmed from my interest in Outsider Art, the fact that this collection is still relatively unknown in the UK, and the issues that lie around the labeling of artists, especially as Outsider Artists. The six artists spent two afternoons, early on in the project, at the Whitworth with Holly Grange, the Curator of this collection. Holly gave an overview of the collection and the term Outsider Art and its history, alongside pulling out select pieces of art to share and discuss. Seven works from this collection featured alongside the residency artists’ works whilst it was at Artlink Hull.

On Friday 22 March we held a day of talks at Tate Liverpool as part of our TATE Exchange event for Conversations Series II: Other Transmissions. We began the day with the six residency artists talking alongside myself about how they found the experience, any challenges they faced and the pieces they chose to have in the final presentation of the work. After lunch was a panel discussion around the labelling of artists, by whom and for what purpose. The panel consisted of: Holly Grange, Curator of The Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection; Tony Heaton, Disabled Artist and Chair of Shape Arts; Residency artist John Powell-Jones; and Ben Wilson, an artist whose work features in the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection. The panel was chaired by myself. (Unfortauntely Dr David O Flynn, Chair of the Adamson Collection and Consultant Psychiatrist at SLAM could not make it on the day)

The photographs below show some of the work made (including film stills), exhibition installation shots, as well as the artists looking at works and taking part in talks.