The Summit - Arts Project Australia

The International Summit for Learning Disability Artists and their Support Studios will open in just over a month, and we are hard at work to make it an unforgettable event. In the meantime, we would like to tell you more about the organisations involved with the Summit, starting with Arts Project Australia, who just celebrated their 40th birthday!

"Arts Project Australia was founded in 1974, when artist Myra Hilgendorf noticed the drawing of her daughter Johanna, who was, in the parlance of the times, “mentally retarded”.  Hilgendorf saw that, through creating art, her daughter could express the thoughts and ideas which Johanna could no longer convey through speech.  These lively, vital works would be the seed from which Arts Project, as we know it today, would grow.

It was Hilgendorf's hope and vision that the works created by her daughter, and others like her, would be accorded the dignity that the work of practising, exhibiting artists in the wider community received, and preferably in settings that were geared more toward art, than disability  It was at this time that Cheryl Daye joined the Committee, and the vision of Arts Project as we know it today – a studio staffed by practising artists, professional quality materials, an ongoing collection of work, and a vibrant gallery space – came to fruition.

The aim of the Studio program is to develop the creative lives and processes of the artists, as well as forging connections with the wider arts community. The role of the Staff Artists is deceptively complex and multi-faceted, as it’s vitally important that the right balance is struck: offering assistance and nurturing to each studio artist, without altering or directing the resulting visual outcomes. All Staff Artists all possess tertiary qualifications in fine art, and bring the specialist knowledge of their various disciplines to the Studio, whilst also maintaining their own art practices.
We are very proud of the span of our Studio program -  drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, digital media (such as photography, imaging and animation) and a 3D program, as well as field trips, visiting artists, skills workshops and life drawing, combine to create diverse and exciting opportunities.  Many of our artists exhibit regularly, both domestically and internationally, and work from Arts Project is held in significant private and public collections the world over."

You can read Arts Project Australia's full statement here.  

The two artists coming to the Summit are Cathy Staughton, who has been with Arts Project Australia since 1996, and Paul Hodges, a regular studio artist since 1998.

Cathy Staughton’s passions, imaginings, sadnesses and dreams are brought to life using a vivid technicolour palette, a keen eye for detail and honest approach to her subject that is refreshingly unselfconscious. Staughton’s paintings depict autobiographical themes and she frequently portrays herself through various characters or guises. She has honed her visual language to a level that enables her to convey the rich drama, comedy and fantasy in her life. Often Staughton repeats symbolic characters such as robots and saintly figures, along with a life-long fascination with Luna Park, which she uses as a device to depict her emotional state and storytelling ability.

Paul Hodges is both a painter and a ceramic artist. Inspired by images of dancers, models and romantic works by the Old Masters, Hodges has concentrated on representing the human figure over the past few years. First looking through magazines and books, he sets about reinterpreting the imagery using ink and occasionally gouache whilst experimenting with colour and form. His work conveys a sense of mystery and dream-like transcendence of everyday life. Like his paintings, Hodges’ ceramic works are often figurative. Gentle in form, the application of soft pastel colours to the works enhances a sense of fluidity and expression.

Images from top: Cathy Staughton 'Stress see computer monitor dream’, Paul Hodges at work, Cathy Staughton painting the Drawing Wall for the Arts Project Australia Annual Gala 2014, Paul Hodges 'Working on the boat', Cathy Staughton at her retrospective in 2013, Paul Hodges 'Untitled'. 

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