It struck me one day – why should artists that have a disability or condition, such as Down syndrome be treated any differently to other artists? We all have our eccentricities, it’s what makes us unique, especially creatively minded souls – they thrive on being different! Why therefore, should a piece of work created by an individual with Down syndrome be given any less, in regards to respect, an honest critique or it’s worth…. The Big Lottery Fund agreed with me and my project Heart & Sold was awarded £10,000 for a special event.
In 2007 we had a son, Max, born with Down syndrome. I spent the first two years of his life in part time educational counselling courses. This eventually led to an MA in Art Psychotherapy of which the first academic year brought all my demons to the surface, through necessary self-study. As hard as this was, it allowed me to quickly come to terms with my son’s condition. I deferred due to the fact I wanted to focus on enjoying him and his older sister (they now both have a younger sister too).
Content as a full time mum, I soon found a gap once Max started school. This allowed me precious time to reflect on previous years, especially my short time analysing the various art works produced by those with a condition, disability or mental illness during the first year of my MA. That’s when it struck me; art comes from within and shouldn’t be judged on conditioning, prejudice or wrongful perception. In fact, it shouldn’t be judged on outward or inward appearances at all, but on whether or not you like what you see.
My project, Heart & Sold, was created specifically for artists that have Down syndrome. It’s an arts organisation established to help celebrate, support and promote an international collective of creative talent, which now includes artists from America, Nigeria, Australia and the U.K.
We ran a small pilot exhibition in 2012 and its success led to the creation of a fully interactive website, allowing the public the opportunity to read about the artists and purchase limited edition prints of their works. A great PR opportunity then came when the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge accepted one of our artist’s original works for Prince George’s nursery last year. This made headlines around the world, firmly establishing us as a professional arts organisation and advocate for disability art.
This success gave us the confidence and ambition to organise something special – the Heart & Sold exhibition launch! It was called The Reveal and included original works selected from our international collective of artists, but it needed funding…that’s where the Big Lottery Fund came in.
Their belief in our organisation enabled us to produce a professional arts exhibition in the heart of London, allowing our largely unknown and unappreciated artists, the platform they so deserved – to create, educate, inspire, sell and most importantly promote the idea that art is from the heart and has nothing to do with the condition. Find out more about Heart & Sold here.