'Irregular' Art Schools: Methods for Supporting the Professional Development of Learning Disabled Artists



Partners and collaborators

Pyramid, Assembly House, Leeds City Council


Over the past 20 years the inclusive arts have grown considerably.

There has been a proliferation of specialist organisations and high-profile exhibitions; raising the profile of learning disabled people as artists, performers and curators. However, despite this momentum and reforms in social care policy, there remain few instances of learning disabled people being recognised as professional artists in their own right.

This disparity is attributed to two different, yet inextricably connected domains: intersection of social care with arts policy and funding.

Irregular Art Schools is co-developing and piloting different professional development opportunities with learning disabled artists in the Leeds City Region, testing how existing structures such as artist-led spaces, universities, publishing, and social care can better serve learning disabled individuals.

Via participatory action-research with learning disabled artists from partner inclusive arts studio Pyramid, this project will examine how contexts such as artist-led spaces, universities and publishing might be extended or diversified to better serve them.

Phase 1 will see the redevelopment of social care support structures to best facilitate their inclusion.

In phase 2, Pyramid artists will co-design an artist-led model of development with Assembly House, and in turn illuminate how artist-led spaces might address sector issues of access.

During phase 3, the project will facilitate collaborative creative interventions between Pyramid artists and fine art students in University of Leeds' School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. This will examine opportunities for learning disabled artists within the current structures of a vibrant art school, while assessing how ideas of artistic quality, criticality and expertise are understood across these contexts and what support mechanisms are required.


  1.  This project will facilitate social policy workshops, bringing together inclusive artists with social care practitioners at Leeds City Council to interrogate critical concepts underpinning social care policy, facilitating knowledge exchange.

  2. To inclusively publish a special edition journal on inclusive art, experimenting with approaches to writing and peer reviewing to include learning disabled artists.

  3.  Leading inclusive art 'think-tanks', connecting facilitators to troubleshoot key sector issues in the UK, alongside

  4. An international inclusive arts knowledge exchange. These combined approaches will allow us to 'crack open' persistent questions of inclusive artistic practice in ways which advance academic debates, and then return back to challenge and change the structures which are currently preventing learning disabled artists from flourishing.

Publications and outputs


Project website