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Artist Profile – Barbara Disney

Artist Profile – Barbara Disney

Each month we’ll be shining the spotlight on an artist that we are currently working with. This month, we’ve the pleasure to introduce artist Barbara Disney, who is working with us on our FreshArt@ Project. 

Hello Barbara – tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic medium…

I have been working within the arts as a practitioner of socially engaged visual art since leaving college, quite some time ago. Working with groups of people is central to my work. This might be to create an exhibition or installation with their work, or to include their ideas and designs in a piece of public art fabricated by me.

I believe in making art accessible to all sectors of the community, while also challenging some preconceived ideas of what is ‘art’, and working in whatever way is most appropriate to the individual or group. Each piece is based on an extensive process of research and consultation to ensure the work is authentic and appropriate to location and use.

I work with a variety of mediums: print, enamel, mosaic, digital manipulation, printed and resist dyed textile. Some of the work is large scale and site specific, other pieces small and intimate.

What project/s are you currently working on with Creativity Works?

I’m about to start working on the Fresh Art@ project, working in museums in Bath. Fresh Art@, is a partnership project supported by Creativity Works, Avon & Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP), The Holburne Museum, No1 Royal Crescent, The American Museum in Britain and Virgin Care, which creates new artwork to enliven NHS communities, created by people with experience of mental health, enabling them to explore, develop and grow through creativity and contribute to community projects.

I was involved in this project last year and am excited about developing ideas now I have some knowledge of what the museum collections hold and how they engage with the public.

Who inspires you? (and why)

I am inspired by the ‘ordinary people’ that I work with, people who come often saying ‘I’m not artistic”, and then produce heartfelt, meaningful, beautiful work. Other than that I could give you a long list of artists from the creators of Adire textiles in Nigeria to Matisse’s fantastic paper cut-outs made in his later life.

What book or exhibition has inspired you recently?

The Most Popular Art exhibition Ever, Grayson Perry at Arnolfini was pretty good.

What’s been your biggest professional, personal or creative achievement to date?

Just an ongoing series of achievements, with quite a few setbacks.

What are your creative aspirations? (with or without Creativity Works)?

I am most excited that with two colleagues, I have set up a Community Interest Company, CreativeShift, which devises and delivers innovative projects to improve Wellbeing.

Last year we created CROWD, An installation of figures and portraits made by people attending Art on Referral programmes in Bristol. First shown at The Vestibules in City Hall, Bristol during the Culture Health and Wellbeing International Conference, CROWD acknowledges that in any group of people 1 in 4 have experience of mental health challenges. CROWD subsequently toured community venues around Bristol and showed up at the Community psychology Festival at Arnolifini and had a tour on the Severn Railway Line.

We are currently devising new projects and would love the opportunity to expand the work into the Bath area.

What advice would you give an emerging socially engaged artist?

Expect to work hard, and don’t expect a reliable, massive income. Do expect to spend quite a lot of time on admin. More importantly, be true to yourself, your skills and interests, and recognise you have a unique way of working. I work with emerging artists, when possible with them receiving payment, although often with them volunteering their time. This does give the opportunity to find out if working within communities is of genuine interest to them and I hope I am able to offer some useful mentoring. I enjoy the input of fresh ideas and enthusiasm offered by these artists.

Photo by: CROWD by Barbara Disney

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