A story by Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians
We delivered KMAdotcom an arts studio in Midlothian which develops the creative opportunity of 12 adult artists with learning disability, giving their parents regular days away from caring.
What KMAdotcom did
KMAdotcom is an artist studio based in Midlothian (Mayfield). It provided a supported and safe creative studio for 12 artists with learning disability (6 artists in two workshops a week for 36 weeks of the year, 9am to 2pm).
Our artists joined KMAdotcom through referrals from adult health and social care and parent carer referrals. They were invited to join the studio for their artistic skills and interests but especially if they had very little else going on in their week. This meant we could target families with little or no respite.
This provided a break from caring for 21 unpaid carers (9am – 2pm for 36 weeks a year, 180 hours per carer).
This funding provided high quality art materials and expert creative guidance from highly experienced contemporary artists. The studio operates on Mondays and Fridays where a sessional artist and volunteer artist support 6 learning disabled artists in a variety of disciplines (painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and textiles).
We organised exhibitions and learning disabled artist ‘residencies’ in contemporary galleries and community venues which can be seen on www.kmadotcom.art
Leanne Ross' work has just joined a parliament permanent collection when Westminster representatives purchased her work through Frieze London. She also showed in Scotland's largest contemporary art festival, GI. Her shout out posters were commissioned by Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Trust staff ‘Rest and Recover’ hubs for frontline NHS supporting the pandemic.
We launched a collection of textiles, ceramics and souvenirs commissioned by the Collective Gallery in December 2020. This contemporary art gallery on Calton Hill wanted to involve work made by KMAdotcom artists as part of their retail shopping area 'Collective Matter' We were invited onto BBC Scotland Janice Forsyth show to talk about the work for Equalities Week.
KMAdotcom artist and wordsmith Marc Smith published a magazine including content from Tate Curator Linsey Young. He joined Konch poetry podcast who placed Marc’s work amid the likes of Margaret Attwood and Hugh Macdiarmid.
Sharon's disco T-shirts were commissioned by the V&A Dundee.
What Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians has learned
We have learned that anything is possible. We feel we've achieved more than any other year in terms of close knit working with families and carers.
We have targeted the families who were shielding and encouraged involvement with people who have no respite.
We have developed partnerships with local and national art collectors, museums and contemporary art outlets. We feel we have supported families with disability to shine, excel and showcase their natural talents, reaching their potential despite all the challenges of the pandemic.
How Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians has benefitted from the funding
There is no other fund like Creative Breaks that focuses so clearly on what families need. It's a creative fund, full of possibility to take the chance on new activity and ideas. We have never had so many opportunities for adults with learning disability to network with Scotland, and the UK's creative community. We have shown that the skills of artists with disability belong equally and wholeheartedly to national creative and cultural production. This work has strengthened Artlink's reputation as a loudspeaker for diversity within the national cultural sector.
21 carers told us that they enjoyed a life outside of their caring role through fortnightly ‘check ins’ with families by whats app, text and email - and live weekly workshops in people's gardens and zoom sessions when prevented from being in the studio.
The pandemic hit carers extremely hard. Usual activities like day services or social networks for their adult children disappeared overnight and reliance upon parents and carers for 24/7 care has made this year harder than any other. KMAdotcom became a lifeline to some even when we were not allowed to access the studio: “I know he’s desperate to be back to real live workshops, it’s the most important part of his week, but seeing all these projects emerge, and what has been possible through online workshops has given not only structure to the week, but purpose, introductions and possibilities we never thought possible. It supports us and is a funny sort of respite as we know that his talents are being nurtured and supported. It has reduced anxiety for all of us in the family."
Marc's mum watched his literary skills be taken to the next level in online 1-1 workshops when he was shielding. As workshops reopened face to face, she could see that the pandemic had not stopped his involvement in the studio or his ability to publish work, in fact quite the opposite. She tweeted "So very proud of my son #marcsmith a great big shout out of thanks to Lauren and Laura at #kmadotcom for all their encouragement and hard work during a very difficult year for our family #keptussane #covidheros" Marc wrote poetry about his views on being human, being part of something and keeping on being kind to each other. You can read about his work here https://kmadotcom.art/2020/11/05/marc-smith/
21 carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role
Leanne Ross has had a year like no other - despite shielding for some of the year, her work has been shown in Scotland and London's largest contemporary art festivals - Gi and Frieze. During the London show, Leanne's work was spotted by a government collector for Westminster's national public collection.
Please read more about Leanne's work here https://kmadotcom.art/2020/11/06/leanne-ross/ Leanne needed to shield for much of the pandemic. Having things to do helped both Leanne and mum focus on something exciting to counteract the lack of variety throughout the week. Weekly workshops for mum and Leanne were a lifeline to the outside world - Mum said they both need new things to do, to talk about to look forward to - they can't believe that Leanne's work is reaching so many people which gives her and the whole family a boost. Her work is so important to her to know that she has her own show, her own projects. "We went to Glasgow to see her show in GI, and we had a disco in the gallery. What a day".
21 carers will feel they have improved wellbeing as a result of being involved
When the pandemic hit, most people who experience multiple health conditions needed to shield. This brought huge challenges for families who were reliant on regular respite for their wellbeing. 21 carers felt that involvement in KMAdotcom improved wellbeing by - Having regular respite - Knowing something exciting was happening for their son or daughter during the boredom and greyness of the pandemic - Seeing the results of their work reaching public domain
One of our newer artists to join the KMAdotcom studio is Sharon Melrose, who took part in the weekly lockdown discos. She designed her own club T shirt wear which was picked up by the V & A in Dundee who saw the Instagram posts about the disco. Sharon's work will be available for sale in the museum shop as part of their Clubland exhibition. Mum, sisters and Sharon visited the museum for business meetings with the curatorial team and stayed overnight in Dundee. Sharon's sister and mum wrote this 'This project has given Sharon so much confidence by allowing her to be creative and expressive in her designs. Sharon is very excited and proud that the V&A love these designs as much as she has loved working on them. Sharon cannot wait to re-visit the V&A to see her designs displayed for sale." https://kmadotcom.art/2021/10/07/sharon-melrose/