The This is Me – Here I Am art exhibition was a successful creative first for Torbay for art and collaboration in Torbay. Taking place at the historic Spanish Barn, Torre Abbey, the show attracted plenty of high-quality art as well as lots of appreciative visitors.
Event organiser and fundraiser Jenny Aherne explained how the exhibition came about.
“In 2017 Co-ordin8 was very fortunate to receive a grant for three years from the Arts Council to identify talented artists who also happen to have learning disabilities and provide opportunities to show their work, learn new techniques and meet local artists,” she said.
“There is now a group of artists who meet weekly and call themselves Co-ordinART.
“The Arts Council grant has also allowed us to meet other groups in Torbay who enjoy art and for Learning Disability Week 2019 we had our first exhibition.
“This year, 2020, we were fortunate to be able to use the prestigious Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey.
“The Co-ordinART exhibition, This Is Me Here I Am, from the 12 to 18 March, was sadly cut short due to the closure of Torre Abbey, however, the exhibition, the first in Torbay of artists with a learning disability from across all services was very successful in both having a large number of contributions and visitors. Most of the visitors were not linked to Learning Disability services and all remarked on the incredible talent and joy at seeing such and amazing range of work exhibited,” said Jenny.
“Prizes and certificates will be given out at a celebration as soon as possible.”
First Prize to Ian Hammond for his interpretations of paintings by Monet and Lowry.
Second Prize to Co-ordinART Tuesday group for Plenty More Fish in the Sea
Third Prize to Janice Smaridge for her textile art of Sacred Hearts
The Community Choice award went to Carina Smith for her numerous art pieces.
Highly Commended works were Hollacombe CRC for their portrayal of plastic awareness, Burrow Down for their Beach Scene, Sue Cox for abstract textile piece, Helen Leech for her Harbour Scene, Janet Lloyd for her Orchids, Andrea Dillon for her Mother Goose, Rose Hamlyn, Dawn Lethbridge, Tracey Brown and Cynthia Rolston for their textile hoops, Elizabeth Collins, PJ Randell for their Sea Scapes and Zena Lamble for her Things I Love picture.
Humans not labels
“This exhibition isn’t about labels, not about ethnicity, gender, ability or disability, they’re boxes we put people in, or climb in ourselves. Used too liberally, they imply sameness. By categorizing people we limit them and us, our being absolutely unique people with unique viewpoints, thoughts and feelings, that’s what makes us human,” said curator and Co-ordin8 artist adviser David Roberts.
“When we share these thoughts, feelings and ideas creatively, we unleash the potential of our shared humanity. The great joy in the making of arts and crafts individually or in a group is the enhancement of this sharing in a powerfully accessible way. It allows us to see the possibilities and potential in ourselves and others.
“Exhibitions like this hold the real potential to bring us together, to engage as a community, developing a different kind of label, one that reflects the excitement, penetrating vision, the sheer delight inherent in these artist’s and maker’s work.
“Curiously the untimely closure of this wonderful exhibition after all the hard work of the staff and students of Co-ordin8, their carers and the care homes presents us with an opportunity to share a creative dialogue with the wider online community,” said David.
“Let’s take this opportunity to combat the isolation imposed by the current coronavirus epidemic in new imaginative, creative ways, be led by the wonderful example of our exhibitors.”
Colourful and complex dedication and commitment
Michael Attard, who holds a Foundation Degree in Intergrated Crafts University of Plymouth, reviewed Textiles, Ceramics and 3D Art at This Is Me – Here I Am.
Michael said: “It was a pleasure seeing this year’s collective output of Co-ordin8 Students that is being shown at the Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey in Torquay.
“Although all the work on show is uniquely expressive of its creators there were some which particularly caught my eye, since I am particularly interested in textiles.
“Sue Cox’s Town and Country is a textured, multi-media piece and is a real achievement, showing dedication and commitment to detail and seeing a piece through to its ultimate completion, irrespective of time taken to arrive at the end, a very rich piece.
“Dawn Lethbridge’s stitched work is both colourful and complex. From the paper-based media section I noticed Leslie Kiel’s monochrome line work piece entitled People and Brian Butler’s gouache work made me think of Desert Caravans. There is weaving and basket-work too and an opportunity for visitors to the exhibition to actively engage in having a go at making a classic fish sculpture…not as simple as it looks! Andrea Dillon’s interweaving of natural materials with primary colours really is very successful.
“Some of the very decorative 3D Dragon Flies really should have been for sale! I wonder if Betty’s Bird Panel will ever find its way into a quilt one day? (I’m a quilter myself.) Seeing the world through the eyes of others has been very interesting and rewarding. I hope that you enjoy the exhibition as much as me.”