How Venture Arts are tackling isolation for the learning disabled.

We are all struggling with the times and isolation that it is bringing.

By Richard Morris | Last updated 27 July 2022

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Everyone has their own complicated circumstances, but just try to imagine how that must feel for the learning disabled and the disorientation this brings for Venture Arts participants, who have had their regular lifeline and focus extinguished – temporarily we all hope. A focus that brought social interaction, care, compassion and teaching.

A short time ago, Manchester’s Finest featured an article about Venture Arts’ latest exhibition, due to run at the Whitworth until June. Of course, that exhibition (and other VA exhibitions around the country) is now closed.

But the team at Venture Arts are finding new ways to keep its learning disabled artists connected and creative during the temporary closure of its much loved arts studio in Hulme. A ‘home from home’ for around 100 learning disabled artists of all ages. For many a vital part of their routine for many years.

Venture Arts is preparing exciting creative projects for all its artists and sending art materials to their homes. Using online software, participants and tutors are connecting via face-to-face learning sessions. And where video isn’t possible, there are morale boosting phone chats.

These remote art projects cover the wide range of media normally offered in the studio, such as illustration, printmaking, photography and film, textiles, ceramics and multimedia. The team is innovating to deliver sessions outside the normal studio setting – without all the normal resources.

Fun, have-a-go social activities are also happening, with the Venture Arts football team doing ‘digital drills’ and others feeling the heat and keeping to the beat with Zumba and karaoke.

Venture Arts Director Amanda Sutton said, “These are extremely difficult times for everybody as we adjust to new ways of living, working, coping and supporting each other. For our learning disabled artists, the disorientation is intensified. We are already hearing about the distress they are feeling.

“Our art studio is normally such a joyful hub of creativity, social interaction and fun. Its temporary closure has left a big gap in our participants’ lives and all of us at Venture Arts are determined to fill that gap with different but equally fulfilling ways of making art.

“We may be working remotely but we are going to keep our Venture Arts family together with the help of our supporters and friends via our Emergency Appeal to help us buy vital equipment and materials.”

Chris Brown, mum of participant Josh, said, “This is a lifeline for my son during this uncertain time. He has been very disoriented by recent events and Venture Arts maintaining contact with him through his package of work will be invaluable to him.”

This crisis is changing many things in the way we all live and work and I am sure that the changes will, in the fullness of time, be good in many ways.

Venture Arts hope, once the studio re-opens, that some of these new ways of operating can be rolled out to expand their capacity. Remote sessions could enable the charity to support many more learning disabled artists across Greater Manchester.

Meanwhile Venture Arts are urgently appealing for funds to purchase equipment such as iPads to lend to participants and for art materials to be delivered to their homes.

A link to their fundraising page is below. At this time many, many charities and organisations are appealing for help. But we all know what is going on and what we have to do to get through this.

Having learning disabilities, perhaps not fully understanding what is going on and why it’s not possible to go out, to Venture Arts sessions or anywhere else, adds fears and isolation that we can’t imagine in our own situations.

As Josh’s mum said, “This is a lifeline.”

Fundraising Page