By Florence Pepper
Please note this article was written prior to social distancing due to COVID-19.
A thought-provoking exhibition of work by disabled artists is taking place in Leeds Tetley Gallery to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a charity that supports people with learning disabilities.
The ‘Hidden art/artists’ exhibition is free and remains at The Tetley until October 2020.
Pyramid of the Arts is a Leeds based charity that aims to support artists with and without learning disabilities to explore the creative arts and allow their work to be seen and their voices heard.
Around 150 artists attend workshops that include singing, film making and art for individual or group projects.
Hidden Art/Artists, the newest body of work being exhibited at the Tetley Gallery, is in response to
artwork created in the art club at Meanwood Park Hospital 30 years ago, which was the birthplace
of Pyramid of the Arts.
The three artists featured in this exhibition are Ria, Liam Hurst, and Stephen Harvey.
The body of work they have produced ranges from powerful pieces of photography to large unconventional textile pieces.
Each part of the exhibition, held on the second floor of the gallery, shows one piece of work created 30 years ago and next to it is an original piece of work created by one of the three artists currently a part of Pyramid today.
Stephan Harvey’s textile piece uses the recurring motif of bones to remember the lives spent and lost within the hospital.
Ria’s piece tells a story of being trapped in a box within an unfair system. She uses the medium of sculpture with large wooden boxes to illustrate the social barriers presented to those with learning difficulties.
Liam Hurst’s contribution to the project uses fragments found at the abandoned Meanwood Hospital site. His miniature models reference buildings from the past and present that are associated with those with learning difficulties.
Art lover Katherine Mudhir said the exhibition was “really creative… I’m so glad these amazing
artists are getting the exposure they deserve”.
Taneesha Ahmed explained that “the three artists work unearths and excavates the first home of
Pyramid of Arts, Meanwood Hospital”.
An estimated 20% of working art therapists in the UK have some involvement with adults or
children with learning disabilities.
Art therapy can be used as an effective tool in helping those with learning disabilities discover and communicate thoughts and feelings. It allows the people around those with challenging behaviour, caused by their learning disability, to have more of an understanding and working towards solutions.
A few facts on disability in the UK
There are approximately 1.5 million people living in the UK with a learning disability
50% of people in the UK living in poverty are disabled or have a disabled person in the household
Disability benefits only account for 8% of the total welfare budget in the UK
Data collected as part of a national learning disability census identified a population, 55% of the parents/carers of children or adults undergoing art therapy recorded a increase in communication
skills and/or decrease in challenging behaviours
20% of art therapists work with adults and/or children with a learning disability
The arts have been proven to encourage self- discovery, emotional growth and can facilitate the
social needs of those with learning disabilities, which is often ignored.
1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and art therapy is particularly helpful to those
that are non- verbal in helping to facilitate communication. There is a large amount of qualitative
evidence to support this according to the National Coalition of Creative Art Therapies Association.
Oaktree Farm Care, a daycare centre in Horsham for vulnerable adults with severe learning
disabilities, runs many art workshops and offers art therapy. Laurence Churcher, a senior
manager at Oaktree said: “Our art workshops are our most popular sessions for a reason, because it
works. It is not only very rewarding and enjoyable for the customer; it also allows the people
around them to have a greater understanding of how they feel and what they want, which is always good”.