'Access to Art: From Day Centre to Tate Modern'Chapter in the Community-University Partnerships in Practice book (NIACE: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education 2007). ISBN 978 1 86201 317 9
The inspiration for this chapter has been the incredible journey over the past four years of the 'Access to Art' Project (inclusive arts practice) and the associated learning disabled artists. It was commissioned among other chapters to describe this journey and explore how community-university partnerships can tackle social inequality and wider disadvantage in order to address local regeneration while also enhancing learning, teaching and research.
This chapter describes the 'Access to Art' Project; it shows we didn’t start with an abstract desire to build university/community partnerships. Instead it grew out of a real problem in the world – the absence of educational opportunities for artists with learning difficulties -which could only be addressed collaboratively. The chapter brings to life much of the engagement between the university students and staff and the learning disabled artists. It pushes the boundaries of student learning in the community and asks what is acceptable for students and who are acceptable students? It also considers pedagogic issues of inclusive arts practice.
Comment from the editors, Elizabeth Maddison, Professor Angie Hart and Dave Wolff:
"Where our book (Community-University Partnerships in Practice) really differs from other books about community-university partnerships is that ours is being co-written with community partners. Communicating our initiative in this way means that we will be directly offering a uniquely-articulated set of perspectives on the process and the outcomes from those working in the university, and from its collaborators in the community. As far as we are aware, this has not yet been done. This process is in itself timely as the producers of research in higher education are more strongly encouraged to focus on ‘user’ needs and interests and to assess the real-world impact of their research (see for example the RAE criteria and panels for 2008). This book will therefore offer both groundbreaking content and will be the product of a groundbreaking process."
The 'Access to Art' Project described in the chapter received a HEFCE Student Volunteering Opportunities Award (Outstanding Opportunities category) and was commended by the judges as "a truly pioneering project and one that should be adopted far and wide".
The 'Access to Art' project also provided the platform for Overalls a research project funded by InQbate (Sussex University and University of Brighton) and involved teaching based research exploring the use of overalls as a creative, inclusive medium for evaluation and documentation of artistic ideas.
Key researchers Alice Fox and Jane Fox tabled a paper on the Overalls research at the Creativity or Conformity Conference: building cultures of creativity in higher education (January 2007), an international, cross-disciplinary conference hosted by Cardiff School of Art & Design UWIC in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy.
The Overalls research was also showcased at the ELIA Teaching Academy Conference, 2007.