Art for Social Justice
All of us have experienced art in some way and the truth is that art helps us see the world in a new light. The same is true of people with dis
abilities, who are viewed as different from the rest of society. In her Intoart program Ella Ritchie states that art is a universal language that transcends race, gender, and nationality.
In the beginning, "there was no data on disability in design," says Ella Ritchie, who founded Intoart with Sam Jones, a fellow fine art printmaking graduate and co-founder. It is a missed opportunity for everyone that people with learning disabilities are rarely considered to be cultural producers. ". It's now in its 22nd year, and the studio works with 24 artists with a wide range of disabilities, including those with autism. It's a creative hotbed that includes painters, printmakers, illustrators, ceramicists, and product and textile designers.
Since the second year of her degree at Central Saint Martins, Ritchie had been volunteering with young people and adults with learning disabilities; she came up with the idea for an alternative art studio when she and Jones gra
duated. She says she had the freedom to work wherever she wanted. "You can't do that if you have a learning disability. For the sake of social justice rather than art, I founded Intoart."
“Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”— Scott Adams
At first, it was just an experiment lasting just ten weeks, but it has since grown into a full-time program of learning as well as studio practice and exhi
bitions, with Intoart staff taking on a variety of roles. A new location at Peckham Levels in 2018 allowed artists to experiment with different mediums and scales, making the organization more flexible. To further develop my artistic skills and methods, I work in my own studio," Clifton Wright, a London-based artist known for his figurative drawings, tells Artnet News. "After 17 years, I still come to the studio to improve my drawing skills, and to develop new concepts and themes."
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” — Berthold Brecht
Ritchie's interest in the role of art in facilitating social justice has informed the studio's evolution through collaboration with galleries and museums. It's also the result of establishing connections with non-profits, small businesses, and other st
akeholders, such as the artists themselves. Ritchie hopes to bring together the expertise of experts from both the public and private sectors by adopting this collaborative approach. To become an artist, Nancy Clayton says, "It's about moving forward and not being invisible with my disability."
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