On the 5th and 6th July, we went on our second research visit to The Art House Wakefield and stayed in their accessible flat. Although this organisation is not a learning-disabled art studio, the aim here was to look into their studio setups and their residency programme as they have accessible studio spaces and accessible accommodation on-site.
There are around 50 studios on site used by artists, designers and businesses, all varying in size and rates – some subsidised and others with commercial rates.
Each studio holder can access the space 24/7, are encouraged to keep doors open, and can take part in the open studios/art walks events across the year.
On site there is also a print studio that you can use, and in keeping with the ethos of The Art House being a space for everyone, there are manual and motorised presses – both Tanya and I had never come across this before!
The new CEO Sydney Thornbury has plans in place to change how the organisation runs, how some spaces in the building are used, and how to engage with the local community more – all the while staying true to the main aims of the organisation.
Outreach work will be a focus, as is running more public courses in the print studio. The residency programme will continue, which has three main strands – solo residencies, international residencies and graduate residencies.
It is clear how important and popular these residencies are – with their last call-out, there were over 500 applications for just three solo residencies.
We had discussions with producers Simon and Laurie around the difficulties of artists with learning disabilities applying for residencies and call-outs and the level of support they would need both in terms of filling out the forms, but also to enable them to do a residency.
The Art House is already reviewing their application forms, the information they circulate and how they share it to make it more accessible for everyone.
A new website is also on the way to showcase the centre, its facilities and what the studio holders are up to – we are excitedly waiting on this.
Tanya reflected on the visit: “Having been at the conception of The Art House many moons ago, it was extraordinary to visit, see the studios, experience the accessible flat and all its gadgets (a bed that goes to upright!), talk to some of the artists and find out what the new plans are for the future of The Art House and its residency programme.
“At ArtStudio01 we are really interested in developing our professional arts practice outside of our own studio practices – the potential for us to expand our horizons and have opportunities for truly inclusive creative learning would open up a whole new world.
“This visit has set me thinking about how we can achieve this. ArtStudio01 is a collective of nine artists, but I do love a challenge! I will be returning to The Art House at some point in the future to explore this potential.”
Tanya and myself left feeling inspired and look forward to the possibility of more learning disabled artists being able to take up opportunities such as those that The Art House offer – watch this space!