Blue Room celebrates ten years of creativity at Bluecoat, the UK’s first arts centre
Weekly programme for learning disabled adults provides access to a creative community in the heart of Liverpool
- Bluecoat’s inclusive arts project Blue Room celebrates 10 years of creativity.
- New exhibition marks the anniversary with ceramics and prints inspired by images from the project’s extensive photographic archive.
- Studio Me explores the changing nature of artistic education featuring Blue Room artists Joshua Henderson & Veronica Watson.
- Online archive, My Bluecoat, brings the ten year story to the public eye.
This year, Bluecoat’s inclusive arts project Blue Room, for adults with learning disabilities, celebrates ten years of creativity.
Since 2008, three Blue Room groups have met weekly at Liverpool’s contemporary art’s centre to explore the exhibitions, create their own artwork and share their work in a variety of ways. With nearly 700,000 visitors to the arts centre each year, Blue Room Members are
supported to develop creative and social skills, building confidence and greater
independence, at the heart of Liverpool’s oldest building and the UK’s first arts centre. The
groups have access to unique resources such as Bluecoat Print Studio and collaborate
with local and international contemporary artists.
Established in the context of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture, Blue Room was an early example of person-centred provision, where people are able to choose activities in which they have a genuine interest. The programme played an important role in the transformation of local day services for learning disabled adults and Liverpool City Council were key partners in getting the project up and running in the early years. Now the project thrives as an independent programme and has provided over 1500 sessions, enabling more than fifty members to be involved in regular arts activity. This short film made with longstanding member Edward Rauer gives a flavour of the impact of the project on members.
For 50 weeks per year Bluecoat’s team of facilitators and volunteers support members to integrate within the creative community of the building and take part in the cultural life of the city. What started as weekly workshops for learning disabled artists has grown a myriad of offshoots. Members have been given access to other artforms, especially improvised dance and performance. Some members regularly co-facilitate sessions for children, families and at conferences and other events and have helped to establish a new Blue Room project at Norton Priory Museum and Gardens in Runcorn.
Recently, four Blue Room members have been expanding their individual practice by working with partners and artists across the city and beyond, including resident dance artists Liverpool Improvisation Collection (LIC), Tate Liverpool, Proud & Loud Arts, Tanya
Raabe-Webber, Becky Peach and Sumuuya Khader. From November 2018 – March 2019 a programme of exhibitions and events will celebrate the landmark anniversary.
In Studio Me, emerging artists Joshua Henderson and Veronica Watson, for whom Bluecoat’s Blue Room programme for adults with learning difficulties has played an important role in their artistic journey, share the experience in their first studio residency. Blue Room at Ten, is a brand new exhibition inspired by images from the project’s extensive photographic archive. Blue Room artists have collaborated with Louise Waller and Alice Odgers from Baltic Clay to create a collection of ceramics. These reference Bluecoat’s acclaimed potter, Julia Carter Preston (1926 – 2012) and explore her sgraffito technique.
The exhibition also features screen prints created at Bluecoat Print Studio. As part of the ten year celebrations, Blue Room: the Journey will look back at the project’s development.
On Sat 1 Dec, you can meet members of Blue Room, staff and associated artists to discover how this unique project began, and future plans. The event features a screening of The Journey, a film to which Blue Room’s roots can be traced, made in 2003 –04 by Leo Fitzmaurice in collaboration with some current members.
Commenting on the ten year anniversary, Bec Fearon Bluecoat’s Head of Engagement said: “Having been involved since the beginning it is amazing to look back at all that has been achieved. Blue Room members are a central part of the artistic community of Bluecoat and the city and have contributed so much. The programme provides a supportive space to experience and learn new things, make friends and express ideas. I look forward to us working with many more members in the next ten years as we look to grow the project into new spaces with new partners.”
Councillor Paul Brant, Cabinet member for adult health and social care, said: “The Blue Room has been a hugely successful project and has changed the lives of the people involved over the last 10 years. It is really important that the people who use our services are given the opportunity to take part in activities that showcase their talents and allow them to grow in confidence and ability. The Blue Room has delivered the most amazing outcomes thanks to the efforts of all involved in making it happen, especially those who take part. Long may it continue to thrive.”
Blue Room Member Veronica Watson said: “I’ve had my studio since August. Having my own studio is nice and quiet… I feel very proud, and I hope people are very proud of my work.”