The ArtWorks Collective is made up of around twenty artists with a varied bunch of talents and passions, who get together on weekdays to get creative in their Soar Works studio or in community centres around the city. Each artist in the collective has learning disabilities and works with the support of not-for-profit initiative ArtWorks South Yorkshire to tap into their potential, develop their practice, and collaborate on projects that have a positive impact on the wider local community.
Recently, these projects have included painting murals for Theatre Deli, DINA, and Sheffield Wednesday FC, stewarding for Doc/Fest, curating a popup exhibition at Millennium Gallery centred on self-belief and teamwork, and working with Site Gallery and landscape architecture practice Wayward on developing Pinball Park (that little-used space that's just over the road from Site). As the staff at ArtWorks put it, these placements and workshops are all about helping members of the group to grow their confidence and life skills through collaboration and creativity, at the same time as supporting other arts organisations and challenging certain perceptions of intellectual disabilities.
Read on to get to know some of the collective.
How would you describe your work?
Heather: I create artwork about my Bi-Polar to help me relax and tell other people about how I feel. I want to help other people understand Bi-Polar better. I am working on five large stitched banners which show my different feelings. They are going to be in an exhibition in Cornwall next year.
Michael: I am very creative and good at drawing. I like to draw people and have special drawing pens.
Tim: My artwork is brilliant. I make paintings from acrylic paints, which make me feel happy. My paintings are very colourful, messy and glorious. I make lots of patterns in my paintings. I have sold about 16 pictures so far.
Sophie: I like making things, such as cushions and bags, which we sell at craft fairs and in our shop. I also like cross-stitch, embroidery and knitting.
Chris: I work mainly drawing, painting and taking photographs. I have helped design most of the murals ArtWorks have created working with other artists in the team.
Kerry: I try lots of new ideas, such as drawing, painting and sewing. I have designed my own fabric and created a handbag from it. I would love to try screen printing soon.
What inspires you?
Michael: I’m inspired by people I meet.
Tim: I make art because of my feelings.
Andrew: I am inspired by other artists’ work. I went to visit Roanna Wells’s studio and exhibition and love her work. I also recently made some boxing painting inspired by Ushio Shinohara’s work. These are being shown at Bloc Projects at the moment.
Kerry: I get lots of ideas from the internet and also from things I see when I’m out and about. I take lots of photos and save ideas on my phone.
Heather: I’ve always been creative. When I was younger I used to write stories about my friend and I discovered I was really good at art when I was at school. I get lots of my ideas from books I read and exhibitions I have visited.
Jordan: I play boccia at the Special Olympics. I like making artwork about that.
What are you currently working on?
Tim: I am making a painting for the ex Lord Mayor to say thank you for letting us be her chosen charity.
Andrew: I have been making wooden decorations and candle holders for our Christmas fair at Wentworth Woodhouse. I’m also helping make a garden there.
Jack: I’m currently working on a self portrait for an exhibition in Rotherham. The piece was inspired by my tattoos.
Chris: I’m working on designing a mural for the wall outside Bloc Projects.
Sophie: I have just finished a cross-stitch piece, which is being shown at Bloc Projects, of the Neon sign from the periodic table. Now I am creating tea light holders for the Christmas fair.
Kerry: I have been creating my own range of jewellery to sell on our online store.
What’s your desk or workspace like?
Tim: My workspace is messy, I like getting messy all together and covering people with paint.
Heather: I love listening to music when I work.
Jack: ArtWorks is always very busy and noisy! I work better when there is lots going on.
Chris: I’m quite neat and like to keep my space tidy, unlike messy Jack!
Sophie: My space is very neat but I share my workspace with my friends as I like their company and working with them.
Andrew: It is so much fun being part of ArtWorks. We’re a team.
What do you love about Sheffield?
Tim: I love that all my friends live in Sheffield, I love Under the Stars nightclub because I love dancing.
Andrew: I like the theatre, sometimes donuts and having toast at ArtWorks in the morning.
Heather: I love all the museums and galleries.
Sophie: I love everything about Sheffield but I especially LOVE football!
Chris: The weather!
Jack: People in Sheffield are very friendly.
Kerry: It’s interesting, there’s lots of music and film created here, like Arctic Monkeys.
Jordan: I love Sheffield United.
What would you do to improve the city?
Kerry: The football players! For both teams!
Heather: I would love the universities to be more friendly to everyone. We have done some work with Sheffield Hallam which was good.
Sophie: I would like Sheffield to be a healthier and cleaner place for everyone. I don’t like people dropping litter.
Andrew: Nothing, I just love it.
Update: while the group can’t meet during lockdown, they’re joining in art activities from home – see #ArtWorksTogether on Instagram for some of their creations.
- Words by
- Kathryn Hall