ActionSpace supports the development of artists with learning disabilities and creates innovative projects for people with learning disabilities to engage with the visual arts.
ActionSpace was launched in the 1960s and established as an independent charity in 1984.
Our status as a sector leader within the UK has been recognised by Arts Council England in their 2015-18 National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding round, where we were one of only 68 organisations across all of England to be awarded a significant uplift in funding.
Our work with high profile cultural organisations such as the Royal Academy, Camden Arts Centre, the Museum of Everything, Outside In/Pallant House Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery has helped to establish a place for artists with learning disabilities in the contemporary arts sector.
We aim to make a professional career in the arts a realistic option for artists with learning disabilities who have the talent and ambition to pursue this.
We are now part of the European Outsider Art Association.
At our three dedicated art studios based at Studio Voltaire in Clapham, Cockpit Arts in Holborn and ACAVA’s Flying Angel Studios in Canning Town, artists with learning disabilities attend weekly Studio Projects and receive guidance and mentoring from our specialist artist facilitators. This supports them to develop their practices and establish their own unique artistic signatures.
Our exhibition programme provides our studio artists with opportunities to showcase and sell their work. Each artist has at least one opportunity a year to exhibit their work. Participatory events such as Watch this Space allow our artists to share their practice with the general public and to engage with others with learning disabilities by inviting them to join them in exploring their creativity in a festive environment.
Our professional development programme is run in partnership with a range of contemporary arts organisations and aims to provide our artists with the same opportunities and experiences available to their peers. ActionSpace encourages each individual artist to take control of their professional practice and supports them by continuing to develop contacts within the visual arts sector in order to create bespoke projects. The ActionSpace team mentor individuals to submit work for open submission exhibitions and pursue other advertised opportunities and support/manage their participation.
Young People’s Programme
ActionSpace’s young people’s projects provide regular opportunities for young people with learning disabilities to explore their creativity and discover new skills. They also give them the chance to meet like-minded young people and to create strong support networks, which is particularly important during the transition from school to adult life. The visual arts can provide a lifeline for these young people by helping them to develop a method of self-expression, which can reduce their frustration and anger. Exhibiting artwork in local venues provides them with a way of participating in their community and gives them valuable positive acknowledgement.
ActionSpace has been successfully running Arts Award since 2011 and we offer each young person we work with the opportunity to gain an Arts Award.
ActionSpace’s Beyond the Studio programme extends our work outside of the studio, and responds to the needs and interests of London’s learning disabled community. This extends from projects for people with profound learning disabilities and complex needs to groups wishing to explore specific visual arts practices, to ActionSpace artists working on individual projects often collaborating with others. We work with partners across London to deliver projects that stimulate, inspire and transform the participants’ lives through building confidence and learning new skills.
Image: Tom Owen with his work