Designers with learning disabilities create prints for charity

Online art shop RoomFifty has worked with studio Intoart, commissioning four disabled creatives to design prints that are being sold for £20 each.

Illustration store Room Fifty has paired up with an inclusive design studio to produce nine prints created by artists and designers with learning disabilities and conditions such as autism.

RoomFifty was launched two years ago, in a bid to make “the best contemporary art accessible to everyone” by selling limited edition prints online, which start at £20.

The company’s founders include The Guardian’s creative director, Chris Clarke, and digital design director, Ben Longden, and also gives half its profits directly to its artists. It currently works with 50 global artists.

Intoart was founded in 2000, and is an inclusive design studio and charity based in Peckham, South London. It currently works with 21 artists and designers who have learning disabilities.

by Christian Ovonlen

The organisation runs art and design programmes, including drawing, painting, illustration, graphics, product, print, textiles, ceramics and fashion, runs a mentoring programme, and puts on exhibitions at museums across London. It also campaigns against cultural exclusion and looks to reduce barriers for disabled people in becoming artists and designers.

Learning disabilities affect how a person learns new skills, understands information, interacts with others and copes independently throughout their lifetime, and can be mild, moderate or severe. People with certain conditions are often affected by learning disabilities, such as those with Down’s Syndrome, autism and Asperger’s.

The collaboration between the two organisations began after Leon Edler, co-founder at RoomFifty, and Ella Ritchie, co-founder at Intoart, met at last year’s London Illustration Fair.

by Clifton Wright

Ritchie then chose four of Intoart’s artists to work on the project, who have now produced nine prints in total, which are currently being sold online at RoomFifty. All profits go towards Intoart.

“It was really hard to select just four artists out of 21 for this project,” she says. “We wanted the collection to be a window into the wide range of creative talent in our collective, while also creating irresistible images that people would love to own.”

Contributing artists include illustrator and portraiture artist Clifton Wright, typographer Andre Williams, illustrator Yoshiko Phillips and artist Christian Ovonlen.

On their unique styles, Ritchie says Wright’s portraits are “jigsaw-like”, using “abstract and tessellated” forms, while Williams’ type-based pieces are “full of his signature, wry wit and bold letterforms”. Phillips’ illustrations are indicative of how she incorporates “merry” characters and figures into her work, while Ovonlen’s paintings are botanical and show a penchant for “fluid, natural forms and subtle colours”, Ritchie adds.

by Yoshiko Phillips

The artists have a range of learning disabilities, including physical and sensory impairments, as well as learning differences.

“We want to challenge preconceptions and overturn prejudices around artists with learning disabilities by providing a platform for them to become visible and equal in the art world,” Ritchie says. “We don’t want them to be merely applauded for participating but recognised and respected in their own right.”

Edler adds that the online art shop looks to bring uncelebrated and unseen artists and designers to the forefront and give them a “platform to sell their work”.

by Andre Williams

“We have worked with a few charities now, but it’s so exciting to work with one that is actually providing the work, which is so vibrant and original,” he says.

He adds that the shop’s ethos is to provide customers with prints that are “affordable, accessible and always interesting”, while helping to “democratise creativity” through lower prices and showcasing new artists.

All the prints cost £20. See the RoomFifty x Intoart collection in full.

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