Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Young people with disabilities inspired at art workshops

Young people with disabilities at The Children’s Trust recently had the opportunity to create their own works of art based on Jan van Huysum’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase as part of multi-sensory art workshops provided by the National Gallery. Taking inspiration from the brightly coloured petals, leaves, summer fruit and butterflies featured in Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, the young people experimented with a variety of materials and techniques to create vibrant artworks in a range of media. The artworks will decorate The Children’s Trust base in Tadworth, Surrey. 

The National Gallery art project at the Childrens Trust © The Children's Trust, Photo by Keith Walter
The workshops were designed to help the participants, many of whom have sensory impairments and complex health needs – including profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and acquired brain injuries – learn visual literacy skills and to enable them to access the painting through observation, play and making. Art activities included 3 practical workshops run by artists from the National Gallery, including plaster casting, printmaking and making wire and paper sculptures. The young people also experienced soundscape recordings of birdsong, insects, trickling water and rustling leaves during the workshops to assist their appreciation of the painting. Visits to the Gallery at the end of the project involved a sensory exploration of it, including touching the marble columns, doorways and listening to the reverberation of sounds in the rooms.
© National Gallery, London
Sculptor Guy Portelli, vice-president of The Children’s Trust, who attended 2 of the workshops, said: “The National Gallery staff that came to The Children’s Trust brought with them an enthusiasm that drew everyone in and conquered all inhibitions. Great art works were created and the participants found inspiration in the Old Master painting, Flowers in a Terracotta Vase by Jan van Huysum, which had something for everyone.”

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