My name is Sue Roff and you are sitting in
the gallery of Arts Projects Australia in Northcote. Arts Project Australia is a centre
of excellence that supports artists with intellectual disabilities. Visual artists – we support
their work in the studio program, we promote their work, both within our gallery and externally
and probably, most importantly, is we advocate for their inclusion within the broader contemporary
arts sector. We have 130 artists that come to us over the
week. Some come one day a week, some come five days a week, depending on their level
of interest and situation. The studio isn’t just painting and drawing. Everyone starts
painting and drawing but we offer a range of programs that accommodate different interests.
So, it’s a working environment and quite a creative environment. People tend to feed
off other people and develop their own unique style. So, if you line up the 130 artists
and their work, you will find that every one of them has a completely individual style. One of the questions we often get asked when new people come in here is, is it therapy
and it is not therapy. We do not practice art therapy. It may be therapeutic for some
people but this, historically, this organisation was started forty-four years ago now by a
lady who had a daughter with a profound intellectual disability and she was an artist and she used
to make art with her daughter and she looked around and there was absolutely nowhere where
artwork by people with intellectual disabilities was being exhibited in a professional manner.
The message for the disability sector is that anything is possible for people with disabilities.
Years ago, nobody would have thought that an artist with a profound intellectual disability
could be celebrated by having work in the National Gallery of Victoria, in the Royal
Academy in London and it is possible. It feels great that our team has been nominated
because that’s what we are here. We couldn’t do what we do if we didn’t all work together
as one crazy, creative organism – from the artists that work in the studio to help our
artists produce the work, to the gallery staff that promote and advertise and get the word
out there that the work is great and to be together to celebrate acknowledgement of the
great work that the team does is you know, its invaluable.