Project Ability is a Glasgow-based arts organisation creating opportunities for people with disabilities and lived experiences of mental ill-health. Providing creative support from ages 5 to 85, Project Ability encourages artistic expression and allows budding creatives to realise their potential.
Martin Sloss works from photographs to recreate dynamic realities through painting. His painterly brushstrokes express powerful movement in the landscapes and his innate sense of colour and composition are immediately recognisable for the viewer. Martin spoke to It’s Nice That along with Project Ability’s exhibitions coordinator Heather Lander, to reveal a notable insight into the value of disability arts.
“Project Ability started my passion for painting”, says Martin, the organisation being a great platform for meeting new people, and the work giving him new-found confidence in his artistic ability: "It’s made me feel good about myself because now I know I can make good paintings and drawings”. He found out about Project Ability from a support worker, and in his work he draws inspiration from books of landscape works and the Impressionist movement, finding painting “therapeutic when I’m in the zone”.
“There is often a freedom in artwork made by artists with a disability, or ‘outsider art’”, says Heather. “The artists often have no formal degree in the arts so the same rules of art making won’t always apply. Artists working at Project Ability are often making art for themselves, not for a gallery, which again allows for a more free, genuine and honest approach to art making”. Although art is such a varied term for defining differing means of expression, Heather asserts that “every major city should have an art gallery that focuses on ‘outsider art’ or disability art, as this gives the public the chance to see and appreciate” works created outside the mainstream art canon.
Valuing the work produced at Project Ability involves “appreciating differences”. Heather’s role involves “placing our artists work in as many diverse and good quality locations as possible to increase the exposure of the artist” if they wish for it. The organisation offers individual support to each of the service users: “when they come through the doors they are artists, and treated as such… Artists here are encouraged to develop ideas and try new things” says Heather. The fully accessible studios offer a wide variety of mediums for experimentation including its own ceramics studio, printing press and easels. “By providing a space that is safe and stable we allow people to feel relaxed and comfortable, allowing them to focus solely on making art”, says Heather.
Project Ability have exhibited an extensive array of shows in their gallery, as well as off-site shows, and it plans to continue to do so in the future. Most recently, at this year’s Glasgow International arts festival, where artist Nnena Kalu spent a week at Project Ability making a large scale installation in the gallery. Nnena works with ActionSpace, a London-based organisation that supports artists with learning disability. She creates colourful structures that wrap themselves around the gallery and react accordingly to their environments.
Project Ability continues to nurture artists in their studios and offers them the opportunity to sell their work through the shop, inspiring confidence in the artists themselves. All in all, Heather and the general public sees “an exciting, productive and inspiring future for Project Ability”.
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