April 28, 2022

Let Me In exhibition celebrates people with disabilities

An exhibition devoted to lifting up people with disabilities is helping to tell often untold stories.

Photo: Eden Lydia, Up in the clouds towards blue skies

Let Me In – A Celebration of Outsider Art Festival has been officially opened by Bearded Dragon Gallery, a social enterprise of Community Bridging Services (CBS) Inc.

The Gallery and latest exhibition provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to showcase their own work in a supportive and welcoming space.

Abby McKay, Executive Manager of Corporate Services and Projects at CBS Inc., has been working in the disability sector for ten years and says people with disabilities often feel overlooked and invisible in the community.

She says the Gallery provides a pathway for artists to harness those experiences for good.

“Many our clients find art as a form of therapy,” says Abby. “It’s a way for them to get in touch with themselves.

“As a proud South Australian organisation, we’ve always had a really big interest in the arts.”

Abby is keen for the exhibition to be a success, noting that it provides a rare opportunity for the artists to have their work showcased in a mainstream environment.

“It is so much harder for someone who has a disability to get their artwork into the mainstream arts and culture scene.

“[The exhibition is] about hearing people’s voices. A lot of our clients have said that they’ve always felt that they’ve been on the outside,” she says.

The theme of Let Me In highlights the serious challenges people with disabilities face in finding meaningful employment.

Many of the artists involved have experienced first-hand how exclusion and stigma shape the way people think.

Among those showcasing their talents are Brenton and Lydia, both of whom are excited about connecting with a wider audience.

“I want people to come and see my art,” says Brenton. “I hope my art brings people joy.”

“What an honour to have been chosen to show my work in the exhibition,” says Lydia.

“I appreciate the support of the staff and Gallery. l take pleasure in my paintings as they always allow me to express my feelings and thoughts in each individual piece.”

Abby says the exhibition provides an opportunity for CBS Inc. to broaden awareness of the organisation’s services in “educating the community and breaking down the stigma of what people with disabilities can achieve.”

All members of staff working in the Bearded Dragon Gallery have lived experience of disability, allowing them to fully understand their artist’s needs.

Bearded Dragon Gallery also enables people with disabilities to earn an income from their art, with 80 per cent of all sale proceeds returned to artists.

“That’s unheard of in art galleries,” says Abby.

“The gallery is a great pathway for the participants who can increase their skills and their level of experience in doing art.

“This will help them to become more established artists [and] exhibit their work and hopefully sell and get paid to do it,” she continues.

“Our galleries are a real point of difference because all the artwork is by people with disabilities or who have some sort of disadvantage.”

Let Me In – A Celebration of Outsider Art Festival is showing at Bearded Dragon Gallery in Gays Arcade, Adelaide and Oaks Plaza, Stirling; Two Bit Villains, Adelaide Arcade; and Summit Café, in the Kilburn Community Centre.

The exhibition runs until 3 June 2022. Entry is free.

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