WEALTH & POVERTY

Project outline:

The project brought together a group of multidisciplinary British artists to create original pieces based on the theme of wealth and poverty, a thousand years from the monarchy to democracy, in London’s history. The artists and the participants looked at the way artists in history celebrated wealth throughout the centuries. The contemporary artists worked with the group of participants who are typically excluded from both the artistic process and the possession of wealth.

London’s association with wealth is never far from the national consciousness, this is portrayed throughout the centuries in museums and galleries and is embodied in the art. The institutions prominently feature the obvious evidence of wealth and those whom possessed it. A similar wealth of less obvious stories also exist in relief. These are the stories of the disenfranchised, the voiceless, the have-nots and those whose lives were/are shaped by the lack of access to what has been celebrated in the capital through art.

What we have achieved from the project:

Art was created through the artists’ contact with a group of people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorders. This group is excluded from the creation and celebration of wealth. The tension between the role of the artist in celebrating wealth (and those who possess it) and their role in creating art in the gaze of those excluded from it informed the project and provided a platform for discussion.

The project had three strands:

  1. The pieces created by the individual artists in their respective disciplines.
  2. A parallel experiential and skills-based arts educational programme for a group of people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorders.
  3. Access to and cooperation with almost twenty of London’s most important galleries and sites.

The project took place over two years. As many of the participants had higher support needs the needed a longer time to engage with and respond to what were a new range of experiences in high profile galleries, meeting new people and the public.

The focus of this project that had not been explored before was that the artists were making art inspired by a group who are historically excluded from the production of wealth and art. The group of participants continued to work and rehearse in public galleries, encouraging the public to comment on the development of the art. The perceptions of the museum-going public continued to be re-orientated as the project raised the profile for people with learning disabilities, as they were becoming part of the mainstream structure. Fear and prejudice continued to be challenged and largely removed as the museum-going public develop further appreciation.

Our artists

We worked with ten established and emerging artists. Although the organisation requires that anyone who works with us attends a group to become familiar with the way in which we work, we do not work with artists who only work with people with learning disabilities. Our artists included:

  • Anna Chen (poet)
  • Laura Bragg (textiles/photography)
  • Paul Heard (digital artist)
  • Glenys Johnson (painter)
  • Sam Queen (opera singer)
  • Shirley Keeble (opera singer)
  • Ann Mitchell (actor)
  • Jeffrey Willis (documentary filmmaker)
  • Saffron van Zwanenberg (musical director)
  • Alice Williams (director)

OUR LIVES

People from one of the most culturally marginalised groups to unlock their inheritance and their hidden histories which have been overlaid by cultural norms.

MAN & THE MACHINE

A weekly project that started by participants taking photographs and culminated in them writing and performing a libretto at the V&A Museum.

ARRIVAL

Taking place over two years, culminating in performances and generating partnerships with museums, galleries and theatres along the River Thames.