Art Bridge 1

“A way forward for talented and emerging artists facing disabling barriers.”

Our work and research identified a gap in support available to promising, emerging and potentially professional artists who face disabling barriers to progress. In response to this, we designed an innovative pilot project, Art Bridge, which we delivered between autumn 2012 and spring 2015.

Art Bridge offered 30 emerging and promising artists with disabling barriers to mainstream arts education 24 months of artistic and professional development and exhibitions in mainstream arts venues. 15 artists engaged with the programme based in Gloucester and 15 more engaged with an online programme. The online provision was developed through our research into innovative and enabling technology which is on-going and has allowed us to develop other online courses such as Leading Creativity in Social Care and Inclusive Arts Leadership.


Art Bridge aimed to deal with issues which may limit participation in mainstream arts training by offering flexibility in terms of time, fully accessible facilities (physical and virtual) and low financial costs supported by an access fund. The programme developed critical discourse and good practice; supported artists working together; assisted networking and building of new connections and relationships and offered new opportunities for professional development and creative engagement.


During the programme, Art Bridge participants were offered the opportunity to work on a commission for the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind). The RNIB Pears centre in Coventry (specialist centre for children with complex needs and visual impairments) wrote a project brief for the commission of work to be shown in their centre. This opportunity afforded valuable experience for the participants to learn how to fulfil a professional commission; they were supported through the process by artist Zoe Partington.


"We were delighted with the results! The artwork is accessible to children who rely on senses other than vision as they are multi-sensory. Children and young people living with us love exploring and interacting with the artwork"


The Art Bridge programme included:

  • Training and guidance from professional artists and exhibitors
  • Supported information, advice and guidance in face-to-face sessions and on-line
  • Professional practice advice, including on exhibition curating and marketing
  • Workshop opportunities and studio space
  • Peer support through networking and on-line communication
  • Collaborative working with established artists, including a residency from an established disabled artist and establishment of an exhibition apprentice post who has also faced barriers to inclusion
  • Opportunities to showcase and help sell artists' work


Work produced by participants and supporting artists toured throughout the county from November 2014 until February 2015, The Traces Exhibition.


The emerging artists held a number of Meet and Greet days during their tour where they could share their unique and personal journeys by giving visitors an insight into their practice. They welcome you to come and view their work by viewing their online gallery on this website or by downloading their brochure below. At the culmination of the programme, the artists were supported to form their own artist collective; they continue to make work and show together, operating from a studio space in Cheltenham.


Traces Exhibition: visitor feedback

“A great deal of talent is clearly visible within these works.”

“Congratulations to all those who have exhibited here. Very impressed by the variety of the work. Obviously all participants have gained a great deal from the course and the work reflects this.”

“Inspiring, thought provoking and original. Great work, looking forward to the next exhibition!”

“Congratulations on a very successful display of very talented artists. Very enjoyable.”

“Such an amazing, wide ranging exhibition from a talented group of artists, who have invested so much in these exhibits. Most rewarding.”

“Wonderful and inspiring. Very diverse and some raw and brave work.”

“A great project, long live creativity!”

“I can feel the passion within all this work and sense of a group”


Participant Feedback:

"I've been really grateful for this opportunity. Art is an amazing thing for people to do - it distracts you from your illness and gives you something positive to focus on. It's changed my whole life"

"The course came at a time in my life where I needed structure and support to develop my creativity. I was able to learn new skills and techniques, with the added support and nurturing that I believe would not be present in a usual foundation course."

"It has shown me that I can do more than I realised and encouraged me to experiment with different mediums."

"The group concept, encouraging each other was incredible and has given me the confidence. I still need to work on my confidence, but so much strength has come from the group."

"They (Art Shape) opened up new ways of working and helped us loosen up rigid approaches. Their approach was gentle and not overt and they helped us to gain clearer ways of looking at things. Their communication about technique was amazing; they developed our confidence and started us thinking about a variety of thought processes about our work"



With thanks to all of the Art Bridge Project advisers, partners and participating artists:

  • Zoe Partington (Lead artist with lived experience of disability and inclusion expert)
  • Paul McKee (The Wilson Gallery and Arts officer for Cheltenham Borough Council)
  • Sue Billington (Manager and Curator at Deep Space Studios, Cheltenham)
  • Lucy Sharp (Managing Director Art Shape)
  • Caroline Tate (Project Manager Art Shape and disabled artist)
  • Stephanie Wills (Art Shape Intern)
  • Helen Rimmer (Project Manager Prema)
  • Harriet West (Art Shape Project Manager)
  • Joanne Callaghan (Disabled artist)
  • Jo Leahy (Stroud Valleys Art Space)
  • David Richmond (Director of Art & Power Bristol)
  • Nina Kirkwood (Art Shape tutor and artist)
  • Pippa Tideman (Artist and fine art lecturer on the foundation course at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College)
  • Sue Austin (Artistic Director of Freewheeling)
  • Dominic Thomas (Freelance artist and community arts co-ordinator)
  • Kirsty Limburn (Art Shape Project Manager)
  • Alison Smith (Workshop leader)
  • Mike Carter (Workshop leader)
  • Simon Aeppli (Workshop leader)
  • Amanda Eady (Workshop leader)
  • Mark Unsworth (Workshop leader)
  • Steve Smith (Workshop leader)
  • Art and Power
  • Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Gdance
  • National Star College and University of Gloucestershire
  • New Brewery Arts
  • Taurus Crafts
  • The Wilson Gallery
  • The Lansdown Gallery
  • The Churches Conservation Trust
  • Royal National Institute for the Blind
  • Adult Education Gloucestershire
  • Coaching for Creatives
  • The Learning Curve

 And with thanks to all of our volunteers:

  • Neil Cocks
  • Mary Brazil
  • Angeline Cobie
  • Milan Carney
  • Lorna Wilcox
  • Courtenay Warren
  • Claudia Walters
  • Georgina Sumner
  • Katie Stephens
  • Leanne Burnham-Richards
  • Lizzie Minchener
Shopping Cart