Project Ability have many wonderful volunteers and to celebrate and showcase the excellent work they all do, we will be introducing them to you over the coming weeks. First up, this Volunteers Week, we have the fantastic Laura Cummings.
Are you a graduate or undergraduate artist? Can you tell us what course you are on, or a little about your art practice?
I am a graduate artist. I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in July 2018 with a BA Hons Degree in Textile Design. Textiles includes fabric design, printing, embroidery, weave and embellishing, however, I specialised in print. My graduate collection was a collection of screen printed and digitally printed fabrics, combined with fabric manipulation, such as smocking and pleating, for fashion, specifically SS/19 womenswear.
In what workshop did you volunteer?
I volunteer in the Create workshops on Saturday mornings for children with disabilities.
Why did you apply to volunteer at Project Ability?
I applied to volunteer at Project Ability initially because I had heard it was a really great experience and that volunteers and the children attending had a lot of fun and opportunities to get creative. I begin my postgraduate degree in art and design teaching in August and so also thought it would be a good opportunity in gaining some experience in working with children of various ages and abilities. My undergraduate dissertation was on the effects of art and design on well-being and so companies such as Project Ability had always interested me and I believe that PA is a particularly excellent example of how beneficial art is in allowing people to express themselves.
Did your experience live up to your expectations?
The experience more than exceeded my expectations. I had never imagined how brilliant the facilities were at Project Ability. It’s a really inspiring space where the children have so many different forms of media to choose from. I also never expected to bond with the children, parents, or staff as much as I have. It has been a truly amazing and inspiring opportunity for myself and I can see first-hand how helpful the create programme is, from allowing children to express themselves, have fun and also in some cases as a form of physical therapy.
What have you learned from your experience with us?
I’ve learned about various disabilities, the difficulties people who have them face and the skills required to help people with certain disabilities, such as hand support for children with cerebral palsy.
I have learned about the restrictions faced by children with certain disabilities but more importantly I’ve learned that no matter what form of disability someone may have they are completely capable of creating beautiful artwork or doing anything really if given the right environment and level of support and understanding.
On a personal level, I have realised how beneficial companies such as Project Ability are; companies that explore art as a form of therapy and expression for a wide variety of people of different ages and abilities, and its fuelled my interest in the topic for me to explore more in the future.
From assisting children in whatever artistic endeavour they choose and from the wide variety of tools and facilities available at Project Ability I have also learned various different art related skills, such as working with clay, which I had not had the opportunity to do before.
Do you have a favourite Project Ability artist or artwork that has stood out for you?
Some of the most inspiring artists for me are Gabe, Guy and Caitlin from the first Create Workshop on Saturday mornings. They each have Cerebral Palsy and have created the most beautiful, expressive work in all forms of medium, ranging from painting and resist work to working with clay. Before volunteering at Project Ability I had very little knowledge of Cerebral Palsy and I am constantly left amazed at the work they produce.
Would you recommend others to volunteer with us?
I most definitely would. I think as well as being a lot of fun, it is also a very rewarding experience. I have gained a lot of insight into various disabilities and working with children from various age groups that I think will be very beneficial to me moving on to become a teacher. Most importantly though I would encourage others to volunteer at PA as the children definitely benefit from the high levels of support and encouragement that the staff and volunteers provide. After seeing the benefits first-hand I think its important to support companies such as this so that they can continue to grow, providing better facilities and opportunities for an increasing number of people.
Thank you, Laura!