Innovative art mentoring scheme fosters new understanding of disability and inclusion

The RBSA has forged a pioneering arts partnership with national disability charity Sense. Both organisations have been supporting artists and art-makers to work beyond disability and create art from ‘a felt perspective’.

Sense Arts and the RBSA have been working on a year-long project called Making Together (supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England), where RBSA artists Annette Pugh and Karoline Rerrie worked in collaboration with disabled art lovers at Sense TouchBase Pears in Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Work will be on show in an exhibition opening on 9 September.

Images from the Making Together exhibition at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham, a multi-sensory exhibition featuring work by disabled people. Picture credit Annette Pugh

Making Together…

Each artist developed a person-centred approach informed by their own current practice and input from Sense. The resulting workshops, exhibitions and mentoring sessions have enabled everyone to participate fully in the project.

Sunney Sharma, Arts and Wellbeing Coordinator at Sense, said: ‘Working with people who live with complex disabilities you have to prioritise the importance of what might be touched or felt, what can be ‘sensed’ rather than something that could be seen or even heard.

‘Art-makers have been encouraged to choose and use art materials independently and sessions were delivered at a pace directed by the group.’

Image: Annette Pugh

Throughout this year, artists have created a bespoke environment for groups and individuals, allowing people the freedom to explore and work with different materials at their own time and pace.

Sunney added: ‘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 values the unique contributions that those with complex disabilities bring to the process of making art.’

Art produced at the Making Sense workshop for people with communication needs, held by the RBSA and Sense at TouchBase Pears in Selly Oak, Birmingham. Work will go on to appear in an art exhibition called Making Together.

Art from a Making Together workshop with Annette Pugh

Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense said: ‘An individual’s passion and enthusiasm for art is sometimes masked by a lack of accessible arts and cultural experiences, a lack of accessible arts training and a lack of professional development opportunities for mainstream art sectors. This project helps to extend the number of collaborative partnerships and provide professional artists with the skills to offer more opportunities in Birmingham.’


Work created between Karoline Rerrie and Marteena

Who are Sense Arts?

Sense Arts was established in 2012 to create inclusive and enriching experiences for people with complex disabilities.

Sense Arts are multi-disciplinary with a focus on performance, music and visual arts. Sense Arts are a national team with a strong presence in the Midlands and give people the time and space to experience, make, learn and work together. Sense Arts received funding from Arts Council England to develop a strategic arts plan at Sense TouchBase Pears – a community hub in Selly Oak, Birmingham. The goal is to nurture artists and art-makers with complex disabilities as leaders in the sector and to inspire other disabled and non-disabled artists to work more inclusively. Stephanie Tyrrell, National Arts Manager, said: ‘We want the people we support to be at the heart of our arts plan and be a part of an in-depth consultation about what we should do. ‘We knew we wanted to work with artists whose work is sensory, interactive, high quality and most importantly inclusive to everyone. We also wanted to bring in new practices to Sense and TouchBase, so we piloted bringing different artists and their practices together.’

Making art more accessible for everyone

RBSA Gallery and Sense TouchBase Pears have a range of activities and resources to help people to enjoy art.

RBSA Gallery is open seven days a week and is free to visit. All visitors are welcome, and staff are happy to help. If you would like to have access to our sensory handling collections during your visit, please contact the Gallery to let us know.

For access and outreach information to help you plan your visit and learn more about RBSA, see our online films:

Sense TouchBase Pears offers an extensive range of inclusive creative activities. View their full programme on their website.

All images: Annette Pugh, Karoline Rerrie

The Making Together project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. We would also like to thank the Grimmitt Trust for their support of our work with Sense.

Lottery logo

#artandwellbeing #deafblindarts #disabilityarts #Sensecharity

8 views0 comments