Spotlight: Venture Arts

Venture Arts has been working with learning disabled visual artists for the past thirty years.

Venture Arts runs a range of artist led visual arts workshops for and with learning disabled artists from Manchester. Our vision is for learning disabled people to be valued contributors to the contemporary visual arts scene as audiences, participants, workers, educators and artists.

We do this by running artist led workshops in all visual art forms from our art studio in the centre of Manchester, by providing the space and capacity for learning disabled artists to make work ready to show and by showing their collective work in large scale shows in Manchester.

We also run workshops in schools that are co-facilitated by learning disabled artists and run a work enrichment programme giving learning disabled people experiences of working within cultural environments. 

A key focus for development for Venture Arts currently is to look at ways in which we can help to build the professional careers of learning disabled visual artists through collaborative work and large scale programming of their work. Later in 2015 we aim to develop a project that will build the work of those artists, collaborating with an established artist and drawing new audiences to the work of learning disabled artists as well as opening up new conversations about learning disability and its place in contemporary visual arts.

The conversations around the Creative Case for diversity are indeed relevant and timely within a learning disability arts context as historically learning disabled artists and arts participators have faced considerable barriers to developing their arts practice or having their voices heard within cultural environments. 

Venture Arts is convinced that through opening doors to people with learning disabilities as audiences, artists and creative workers,  arts organisations  and cultural venues will be presented with real opportunities  to build their knowledge, experience and overall value for the better.

Learning disabled artists simply struggle to be taken seriously and, we feel, need supporting arts studios and arts organisations to champion their work and creative contribution.

Much work is already in place in this field: two recent learning disability led ‘Creative Minds’ conferences in Brighton and in Bristol have put forward questions around quality in learning disability art and how learning disabled artists can be taken seriously going forward. Venture Arts is keen to see a Creative Minds conference brought to the North by a consortium of north based arts organisations.

Internationally too there is a growing learning disability arts movement, often seen within the ‘Outsider Art’ movement; most recently in October 2014: Contemporary Outsider Art – The Global Context in Melbourne; and in 2012-13  a major European tour of Japanese outsider arts finished at the Wellcome Collection and brought together more than 300 works for the first major display of Japanese Outsider Art in the UK.

Venture Arts is also delighted to be part of a new International Summit for Learning Disabled artists in Glasgow in March 2015.

For more information and updates about Venture Arts, please visit the website at, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.