Venture Arts is a visual arts organisation based in Hulme, striving to enable learning disabled people to engage and be recognised in the art and culture world.
When I walked through the door at venture Arts in Hulme I was greeted by enthusiasm and exuberance. Now that, I guess, conjures up a picture of artists and people desperately keen to discuss their work. That’s the usual pattern. But enthusiasm and exuberance is expressed by a dichotomy of characters.
For example the first person I met – who came forward instantly to shake my hand and tell me his name – was Barry Finan. For the next hour, Barry didn’t communicate another word to me directly but was comfortable with me watching him work.
And later I was introduced to Horace Lindezey…who instantly interviewed me with a series of non-stop questions. (It wasn’t just me, Horace does this with everybody he meets I was told.)
Horace’s artistic work demonstrates his fascination with weddings (particularly TV weddings), which is reflected in his ceramics and beautiful, delicate work in other mediums. Horace’s opening lines to me were: “Hello. What year were you born? When was the last time you went to a wedding? Did you wear a suit? How many suits have you got? What colour are they?”
Horace is a big bloke. I’m six foot and he towered over me. The constant smile renders him absolutely anything but threatening. His fascination with weddings is surprising and disarming.
There are many, many people who regularly create work at Venture Arts in Hulme. And have been doing for more than two decades. All are learning disabled.
I’ve met few artists who have had work purchased for display in the Whitworth. Barry Finan is one of them. I’ve never met an artist who expresses a fascination – weddings – in so sensitive a way as Horace.
Make no mistake, the work that I saw at Venture Arts is refreshing in its ease, exciting in its execution. Art without the standard artists’ concern for whether their work will be liked, recognised and applauded. So refreshing.
I only have space to talk about Barry and Horace a little here. There are many more artists at Venture Arts. Around 200 in fact, with 1,000 workshops every year.
Barry’s fascination is expressing memories in a sort of stream of written consciousness. His own totally unique outpouring of words, with his own unique construction of words in capital letters. I watched him work, he likes music to be playing whilst he works. Whilst I was there that was Girls Aloud and Sandie Shaw.
Barry concentrated fully on his unique calligraphy. The list of where his work has been exhibited would make most artists green with professional envy, with the British Ceramics Biennial next on that list.
Horace expresses his fascination in the most delicate of ways, my particular favourite a series of (his own) suits so finely crafted in wire, mounted with captions on raw steel describing where he bought them, why and when he wears them.
But his biggest smile is saved for when he tells me that actor Julie Hesmondalgh called in to see the porcelain sculpture he had made of her dress from the TV wedding to Roy (Hayley and Roy in Corrie).
So there you are. Just two artists. A look at the Venture Arts website will show the genuine and honest talent of many more learning disabled artists.
I started with the words ‘enthusiasm and exuberance.’ Of course, this feeds through to the artists from the team at Venture Arts – including Kate Royle the Marketing and Comms Officer – who gave me the tour.
That team create the confidence and provide the support that leads to what I can only try and describe as an outpouring of emotions through visual art, that might not otherwise find its way into the world.
Venture Arts, 43 Old Birley Street, Manchester, M15 5RF