Jesse and Matt work in The Enterprise, a community hub in Teddington where they run activities for adults with learning disabilities.

Since the hub has been closed due to coronavirus they have come up with creative ways to keep running events and activities for the people they support.

Recently, they put together a virtual art gallery and private view to showcase some of the amazing work people have been producing at the online art sessions.

Jesse explains why they set up the online gallery and private view

Our weekly art group was due to have an exhibition in Kingston in June but due to Covid this didn’t go ahead. We know how much the people we support enjoy these events and how important it is for them to be able to reflect on and celebrate the work they have made, even more so in times like these. So I decided to organise something online to celebrate and share the amazing work the group has done during lockdown.

I was able to create an online gallery which showcased the work from 12 different artists who attend our weekly Zoom art group and has information about them and their work. The gallery is divided into different sections to highlight the various artists and techniques we have covered. 

Like with all exhibitions we have held in the past, we wanted to open the exhibition with a private view in which we invited the artists, their friends and family to view the exhibition and have a celebration before it went live.

We hosted this event via Zoom, although we initially had some apprehensions about how this may work, the event ran very smoothly. After an introduction, me and the artists gave a guided tour of the exhibitions, with each artist talking about his/her work and about different artists and artistic techniques they have enjoyed learning about in our zoom art sessions.

The event was a great success; it was really fantastic for the guys to see the accumulation of all their work over these last months and to be able to share that with family and friends from all over. We have had lots of positive feedback from those who attended the private view and from others who have since accessed the exhibition online.  

At the end of the private view we announced that we had an anonymous donation of £200, to be used to help support the development of the artists in the group.

With this donation we have developed the United Response art pack scheme. This initial investment will give each member an art pack which contains a basic art set of materials, and the option to choose a specialty add on such as a watercolour set, pastels, inks or paints. This gives the artists the opportunity to work with materials they wouldn’t normally use, broadening their artistic knowledge and helping support the development of their practice.

Off the back of this initial donation we have started a fundraising campaign for the art packs. With this we will be able to send out top ups for the packs every few months, giving the artists access to lots of different materials.

We will also be sending packs to the people we support that are not able to access the online activities but who would have usually attended the art sessions, in these packs we will have topics and activities for them to complete at home.

Matt talks about the big night

On the night of the event I logged onto the Zoom session and was excited to see over 30 people on the call. It was great to see all the artists and their families in a relaxing environment getting ready for the show to start.

It was as if everybody were in the same room, with some attendees enjoying a glass of wine as they would at a physical exhibition.

The people we support who attend the group were nervous about the event but were extremely proud for their work to be on show. Many of the artists involved spoke about their favourite artist and how the group had helped them during lockdown.

One lady even expressed how Jesse’s art sessions had helped her get over the loss of her grandfather at the beginning of April.

Overall the session was a huge success. It has prompted us to develop an online gallery for all of United Response to share their work. As well as giving us a platform to sell artwork in the future. Thank you to all involved.

Feedback from people we support and their families

Jake said “The exhibition showed me how popular my artwork can be, it was truly a great eye grabber! We sent the exhibition to my sister in Scotland and she loved it so much!”

Siobhan Woods said “I liked sharing my artwork with other people, it makes me feel proud.”

Kayleigh said “I think it was really good, I am looking forward to sharing with my family.”

Catherine, the mum of someone we support said “Being online was great, we were able to have people there who wouldn’t have be there otherwise because they’re far away. It was brilliant for them to see, and they were really impressed. The presentation was superb, brilliant. I think it would be worth doing in parallel with a real exhibition in the future, because that kind of presentation is so great seeing the artwork large.”