Volunteer’s week of thanks : Phoebe Barnicoat

It’s volunteer’s week of thanks! Each term Project Ability welcomes new volunteers to work alongside our artists in ReConnect, Aspire and Create.

We would like to take this time to say a huge thank you to all our dedicated volunteers! It is always so wonderful to see the connections, ideas and artworks that are formed during the blocks of workshops. Phoebe volunteered at Project Ability back in 2013 -15 and has since gone on to secure funding of her own to continue working and expanding the opportunities for disabled artists.

Here are a few words from the wonderful Phoebe:

I volunteered at Project Ability in 2013-15 after graduating from GSA. The weekly volunteer sessions energised me. Looking back now, it’s clear the experience hugely influenced my life and set me off on a path that has wiggled from Project Ability in Glasgow to Creativity Explored in San Francisco, to ActionSpace in London and now to Shallal in Cornwall – where I’ve been setting up an inclusive art studio for the last 6 months, deeply inspired by Project Ability.

At Project Ability, I saw incredible work being created every week. Working with the artists was a privilege and I became interested to learn more about platforms for artists with learning disabilities and mental health issues. In 2015 I was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel to the U.S and Canada to explore just this. You can read my findings here: www.overcomeandamplify.com

During my fellowship, Project Ability connected me to Creativity Explored in San Francisco, where I met brilliant artists and learnt about the development of their studios.

Once I returned to the UK, I moved to London and started volunteering at ActionSpace (who I’d met at a Project Ability conference). In 2017, I was delighted to take over leading one of their outreach programmes in a day centre, for 8 artists with profound and multiple learning disabilities. The project created a studio environment each week that incorporated sensory play. Running the programme led to hosting an exhibition and symposium in 2018, looking at the importance of play in art.

After 3 years in London, last year I moved to Cornwall, where I have roots and have set up a studio with an inclusive dance charity called Shallal.

It’s an exciting opportunity to start a project from scratch. At Shallal we are currently researching the ‘doughnut’ economic model, looking at strategies to develop a programme that’s sustainable and environmentally aware. Knowing that it’s possible to build a studio like Project Ability and the value that it has for its artists and the wider community keeps me going.”


We will be collaborating with Pheobe over the next few months as she launches her new Project and are so inspired by the work that Phoebe has gone on to do! Thank you for sharing with us Phoebe!

Studio artist Janet Holland working at Shallal Studios 2020


Creativity Explored artist Richard Wright working in the Creativity Explored studio, 2015


ActionSpace artist Patrick Moses artwork for ‘No Limit’ exhibition and symposium on the role of play in art, 2018


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