Made up of one full time and three part time members of staff – Artbox London impressively accomplishes a lot with limited resources.
Based in Islington, Artbox’s mission is to improve the wellbeing and inclusion of people with learning difficulties (PwLD) and autism through art. They do this through weekly art workshops, exhibitions and opportunities to sell the work of their beneficiaries and regular trips to museums and art galleries in central London.
Artbox knows that PwLD face many obstacles to full inclusion and integration within society. Madeline, Project Director said, “Limited contact with other PwLD as well as non-disabled peers means many people are at risk of becoming isolated and developing mental health problems. We know this through our own beneficiaries; 27% of people we work with have no regular activities outside of Artbox, a further 18% have only one to two regular activities in their week.”
This is why organisations like Artbox are so crucial. Their activities allow PwLD to experience the therapeutic benefits and positive emotions generated in creating art, get out of the house and meet friends with and without learning disabilities and be part of a supportive group. The sale of their work brings about additional sense of achievement and accomplishment that has a positive effect on wellbeing, improving self-esteem and self-worth. It also encourages meaningful interactions between the artists and people who may not have much, if any, experience of learning disabilities. The trips help them become familiar with new places and public transport, gradually building their confidence and independence.
But without the luxury of having a person or team dedicated to fundraising, finding money to fund their work is one of their biggest challenges. In fact, staff do bits of everything - from marketing and fundraising to negotiating contracts, facilitating sessions, arranging trips and creating and selling artwork.
But being small definitely has its perks.
As a small charity, they have the ability to be flexible and dynamic, quickly adapting their services based on the needs of the individual. “We don’t have countless levels of management,” Madeline begins, “which means that ideas can quickly become a new or improved service.”
This closeness allows them to gain a deeper understanding of all their beneficiaries and helps with trust. Parents and support staff can easily meet with Artbox staff and are able to build relationships with them so they get a better understanding of their work and Artbox get a good understanding of their needs.
And it’s clearly making an impact. Often asking their artists what they want or feel about Artbox, the responses speak for themselves: 100% said they experienced positive emotions through Artbox; 91% reported greater self-esteem; and 77% felt more independent. And their beneficiaries stay with Arbox for a long time, “It’s up to them how long they stay for and many stay with us for years – in fact, we still work with many of the first cohort of artists who started in January 2011!” Madeline exclaims.
Their most recent exhibition, an inclusive event where around 60% of the artists had a learning disability and/or autism, generated a real buzz and over £2,000. This enabled Artbox to pay their beneficiaries, something that’s very important to Artbox as they find PwLD rarely get paid for their skills.
They also recently moved into a new studio and have been focusing on increasing the length and regularity of their workshops, excursions and exhibitions. Some of the artists now contact each other through social media and others meet up away from the studio. Madeline says, “This means that more of our beneficiaries are getting out of the house and reducing the likelihood of developing mental health problems – this is a great achievement.”