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Blog - Learning Disabled Art Studios

Intoart – a new studio in South London

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Since the year 2000 Intoart has been running (in some form) across London, but it has recently taken up residence in the newly opened Peckham Levels. Its studio sits alongside other artists, designers, filmmakers and architects – everyone likes being in this space as they get to interact with the many studio holders, and the public, throughout the day. Being an old car park, Tanya and I were amazed at how great the studio looked inside – walking in to see their shop, long windows allowing in lots of natural light and a very organised archive wall (with over 2,000 works documented) splitting the studio space from the office.

Artists in the Intoart studio

Intoart Studio in Peckham Levels. Photo credit: Intoart

Tanya said, “Entering into the Intoart studio for the first time there was a great sense of focus as all the artists were very quietly getting on with their own projects. The studio space was extremely well organised and thought through, housing the archives of the artists’ work with access and accessibility at the forefront. It was really interesting talking to Ella about the studio philosophy around the artists being a collective and how that has been embedded into their cultural identity. At ArtStudio01 we are just beginning to explore our identity as a studio collective and how we might develop that, so this has given me ideas.”

Ella Ritchie, the Director, spent time telling us about the history of the organisation and their strong views on how the artists and the organisation are described and perceived. High quality materials are purchased stemming from Ella and Sam’s (the manager) background working in summer schemes with cheap materials and low expectations of people – this is quite a theme across the centres we have so far visited.

From September they will be working with 22 artists across the week in their studio. For Intoart it is important that they keep to a smaller number of artists so the staff can really invest in experiences they have as artists. Different artists attend each day, but on the day we visited it was the artists who are all working on their own individual projects and who are committed and want to push themselves as artists. These artists have critique sessions and planning meetings to manage their projects themselves, as much as possible. Mondays the studio is closed to allow for studio visits from external people wishing to see particular artists bodies of work.

There is a collective ethos in the studio, with the artists talking about what they expect of each other and bringing together a group agreement themselves, without input from the staff. The staff roles also crossover – Ella and Sam carry out the strategic planning, as well as facilitating some of the sessions. For them, this is important to enable them to have more of a connection to the artists.

Colourful ceramic bowls

A collection of ceramics produced by the design group. Photo credit: Intoart.

Fees are kept low for those who attend, as Intoart do not want this to be a barrier. It is made clear too that when the artists step through the door it is into an art studio to work, as opposed to a support centre. The artists are signposted to people in these supportive roles externally, who are trained to offer this help. This will be something to look at for ArtStudio01.

With the range of products that are produced, the sales of these support the creation of the next line of products that are designed, such as the beautiful bowls that were launched in collaboration with Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart. Intoart has also worked with larger London based organisations such as the V&A on longer term projects, culminating in works being shown within their spaces. They are not keen on being involved in short tokenistic projects, and rightly so!

The producer for this research project, Jennifer Gilbert, writes these blogs, with the Director of ArtStudio01, Tanya Raabe-Webber, sharing her reflections throughout too.

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