Degrees of Separation film screened at In The Frame Learning Disability Arts Conference, Tate Modern, 20 June 2005
This film was inspired by many years of working with artists with complex learning disabilities. It showcases some of the artists and their work including interviews with myself as founder of the 'Access to Art Project' (inclusive arts opportunities for people with complex learning disabilities) and Cork Street Gallery owner Angela Flowers.
Degrees of Separation lays out the current situation of arts education provision for adults with complex needs and asks how can we provide these skilled artists access to Higher Education, particularly in the light of new legislation, Disability Discrimination Act: Special Education Needs (1995) and the Government White Paper, ‘Valuing People’ (2001).
The film offers the artists an accessible platform to talk about their ideas, work and ambitions and asks realistically, what does the future hold? The film was made in response to some research I did into the training needs of artists with learning disabilities in East Sussex carried out on behalf of the Arts Council in 2001. This highlighted the lack of quality arts opportunities for adults with complex needs and the enthusiasm and need for such provision. It was also clear that people with learning disabilities spend much of their time segregated and disconnected from the wider community. In response to this desire to be included the Access to Art project has developed a successful model of inclusive learning within Higher Arts Education also introduced in the film.
Also during the In The Frame conference myself and learning disabled artists Andrew Apicella and Listening to Us (a group of learning disabled facilitators) delivered a workshop entitled ‘Have Your Say’. This session brought together learning disabled artists, people with a learning disability who are interested in the arts and people from the 'mainstream' arts world (for example people who work in art galleries, people from the Arts Council of England, local authority arts officers) to discuss opportunities in the arts for learning disabled artists and what can be done to make art galleries more accessible.
The film Degrees of Separation plays a key role in disseminating the core philosophies of the Access to Art project and was instrumental in securing a £72,000 grant from the Arts Council to continue the work.
Degrees of Separation has also been screened at the following conferences during workshop presentations: