Collective of artists with disabilities makes huge impact in Sydney

A Sydney artist collective is defying stigmas one piece at a time.

Studio A is an art studio that provides professional pathways for artists with intellectual disabilities. Not only are these artists supported with resources but with opportunities to have their work commissioned.

The group was founded by Gabrielle Mordy and Emma Johnston when they noticed that disabilities were not precluding artists from making compelling work.

“Around 12 years ago I started volunteering in a recreationally focused art program for people with disabilities,” Mordy told the Associated Press. “I encountered a handful of people making incredible bodies of artwork and none of this artwork was being seen by art audiences.”

Now 19 artists, including Emily Crockford who has Down syndrome, are able to pivot their skills into real careers. Crockford was commissioned by the New South Wales state government to create a mural (her specialty) for a pedestrian tunnel.

The 90-square-meter piece spans two walls and features the ecological diversity of Sydney with depictions of marine life and possums.

“Everyone is going to walk past it. I’m the artist,” Crockford says. “They’re loving it when they’re walking past all the bicycles.”

Thom Roberts is a collective member and has autism. In 2019, he was one of 70 artists selected to be a part of “The National” exhibit at the prestigious Carriageworks gallery. The project featured 16 of Roberts’ paintings.

“If they didn’t have a disability they would have gone to art school and would have got all the benefits of going to art school,” Mordy told the Associated Press. “Studio A is very much about the language of art, the power of art, and letting the art itself communicate.”

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