In Sydney’s Crows Nest, less than 10 kilometres north of the CBD, an art revolution has been quietly taking hold in recent years.
And the noise is getting louder.
Fresh from its third year at Sydney Contemporary last month, social enterprise Studio A is seeing several of its artists with intellectual disabilities receive greater acknowledgement and recognition. Tohm Roberts’ series of paintings inspired by his personification of trains have just been curated into The National exhibition taking place early next year, while Skye Saxon last year made what Studio A believes is the first ever computer game by someone with an intellectual disability.
In the middle of Australia’s biggest city, Emily Crockford’s work can also be seen after a print was licensed by The City of Sydney. Westpac has also procured works from Studio A, which supports visual artists challenged with intellectual disabilities by providing a studio, professional development and opportunities.
While receiving financial support from various supporters, including from the Westpac Foundation, Studio A’s model is also based on revenue sharing with its artists. For example, Ms Crockford received a $13,000 license fee that was split 35-65 per cent, the majority going to the artist. She is also in the process of painting a 39 metre mural at Westpac's West Concord Service Centre.
Gabrielle Mordy, chief executive and artistic director of Studio A, said despite the artists’ challenges, Studio A was a “place that just makes great art” like many other studios while also providing better social, personal and economic outcomes.
She added that without Studio A’s representation at events like Sydney Contemporary, there would often be no galleries representing the work of artists with disability at Australasia’s leading international art fairs.
“What has personally been really, really beautiful for me to watch as our artists have progressed….is to see them introduce themselves to people in public, shake someone’s hands, look them in the eyes and say my name is such and such and I’m an artist,” she says.