When artist and illustrator Karoline Rerrie held a recent series of workshops called Making Sense with people with complex disabilities, she was drawing on years of experience.
But she says additional training from Sense, the national disability charity, has enabled her to think afresh about ways of working with visual or hearing-impaired participants.
Karoline used collage, fabric painting and block printing in her workshops delivered at TouchBase Pears, the pioneering Sense community centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham. Sessions moved from using card templates for collage to card stencils for fabric painting, to paper stencils and photo stencils for screen printing.
Making Sense… a workshop with Karoline Rerrie.
Work from these classes, along with art produced in sessions with artist Annette Pugh, will feature in Making Together, a new multi-sensory exhibition coming to the RBSA on 27 February.
Karoline said: ‘Having worked with adults with learning difficulties in the past, I have always stressed the importance of inclusivity. But there were still some surprises in my workshops. For a start, we ran out of yellow card very quickly! So yellow is a colour people were drawn to… and also tissue paper.
‘I was aware how some participants would work in a small area of paper, according to their vision. The training with Sense really helped me understand visual impairments and we also looked at bringing in touch, visual aids for those with hearing impairments and sign language so we could communicate.
‘Each work produced was totally unique.
‘Basic things like the importance of contrasts, visual aids, and how a person may experience making art are vital to working with people who have a visual and/or hearing impairment.
‘A class is very much taught on an individual basis. You work with each person a lot more closely.’
Making Together runs until 9 March at the RBSA before transferring to the TouchBase Pears Centre. The aim of the exhibition is to champion inclusivity in the arts and explore artistic expression with people who experience visual, auditory and other complex sensory conditions.
Natalie Osborne, Learning and Engagement Manager at the RBSA said: “We’re delighted to be working with Sense again in 2019. This new exhibition follows ground-breaking work with Sense last year and continues to explore ways in which people with complex disabilities can lead fulfilling and creative lives.
‘We want to explore new ways of making art and to develop understanding among artists in how they can support art-making for individuals and groups with complex disabilities. We also hope to raise awareness more widely about how art can be more inclusive.’
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense, said: ‘We believe the arts have a particular importance for disabled people who communicate differently; they offer all of us the opportunity to focus on how a person uses their senses and non-verbal communication to experience and connect to the world.’
The RBSA will be offering guided tours and multi-sensory tours during the show including a BSL tour on 27 February. Contact Natalie at the RBSA on 0121 236 4353 to book a place.
This project / exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and a donation by the Grimmitt Trust.