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Blog - Learning Disabled Art Studios

Project Ability and its reach across Glasgow


Since 1984 Project Ability has existed in Glasgow and has been in two previous venues before settling into Trongate 103 in 2009, where it occupies two floors of a very large cultural building. With Creative Scotland and Glasgow City Council as the main core funders, Project Ability supports well over 100 artists each week across the programmes they have on offer.

Brightly coloured windows

Beautiful bright stained glass within the studios at Project Ability

Tanya is an Associate Artist with Project Ability and has know the organisation for a few years now:

“2009 is when I first approached Project Ability, as I was artist in residence at the Tron Theatre with Fittings Multi Media Arts illustrating the rehearsals of a production ‘Raspberry’. As a visual artist I was drawn to the work of Project Ability. My work with them has developed over the years into a strong partnership including workshops, the International Summit residency, exhibitions of my work, my first live-stream portrait sitting, and a co-curated exhibition of ArtStudio01 artists … And the journey’s not over yet!”

Due to the size of their studio spaces, Project Ability can often have two groups in at the same time, so the Re-connect group for adults with a lived experience of mental health is often in on the same day as the Aspire group for learning disabled artists. As with Intoart, Project Ability does not have someone dedicated to deal with personal and social care issues, but they speak to the relevant teams for this should they need to.

Director Elisabeth Gibson chatting to Tanya and Jennifer

The organisation works with 20 artist volunteers during the week, who do two-hour sessions. The volunteers stay for a maximum of six months, as there is a long waiting list of external artists wanting to volunteer. ArtStudio01 is going to look at the different volunteer models we have been learning about across our visits and see what may be possible for them. Tanya said of this:

“ArtStudio01 is based in the Participate Contemporary Studios CIC sharing the space with over 15 other artists and a team of volunteers. Although we have began to see some creative exchanges happen, I would like to tap into this creative pool much more to develop a stronger culture of peer support, which feeds both our artists and the local creative community.”

The main exhibition space at Project Ability

There are dedicated exhibition spaces for Project Ability within Trongate 103. Each exhibition lasts around five weeks, and there are two exhibitions on concurrently. There are several solo exhibitions a year (that facilitators will suggest people for) with the others often planned around important events in the calendar, such as a learning disability exhibition happening during learning disability week, etc. In recent years Project Ability believe that social media has made a big difference to the reach of their exhibitions and the number of people physically attending them. The other great thing about social media is that Project Ability invite other organisations (internationally) to submit to open-call exhibitions and in return these organisations often offer artists from Project Ability opportunities to exhibit in their spaces too – something for ArtStudio01 to build on as well.

Project Ability are currently in consultation with the artists and they all share the same message that they want their work to be seen regularly and by lots of different people. It is not so much about the selling, as that is a bonus, it is about external audiences seeing what they do. This rings true to many of the organisations that we have visited.

Tanya chatting to artist Cameron Morgan

Cameron Morgan has been on many residencies across the last year including at The Art House in Wakefield, and next year he will be coming to ArtStudio01 for a three-day residency – the first one for ArtStudio01. Tanya said,

“We are very excited about having Cameron, exhibiting his work in our studio and seeing where this cultural exchange takes us.”

Project Ability often carries out heritage projects across Scotland and we were very excited to hear about a new project that is going to be working with the Art Extraordinary Collection that is now at Glasgow Museum – watch their website to see how this develops. Also look out for their new website coming later in the year – exciting!

‘There’s no place like home’ – Cameron’s ceramic shoes

These blogs are co-written by the Producer for this research project, Jennifer Gilbert, and Director of ArtStudio01, Tanya Raabe-Webber, sharing what they have learnt during the studio visits.

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