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Adults with learning disabilities invigorate museum gallery with stunning art

Phoenix Rising: MK is currently hosting an exhibition ‘Uprising Three: From Lockdown to Freedom’ at Milton Keynes Museum.

The colourful exhibition showcases artwork, photography, video and fashion produced by its creative group members.

Phoenix Rising:MK is a Community Interest Company providing creative and social access opportunities for adults with support needs.

The exhibition has developed from the museum’s lockdown activities when it launched a programme called We Are Milton Keynes, Too where it asked people to tell them about their Milton Keynes and what was important to them.

Phoenix Rising: MK

Fashion plays a big part of Uprising Three: From Lockdown to Freedom. Photograph courtesy of Phoenix Rising: MK

Phoenix Rising: MK subsequently approached the museum and put together fashion displays as part of the We Are Milton Keynes, Too exhibition last year.

“Following that they said they had so much material they would like to use the whole gallery,” Bill Griffiths, Director of Milton Keynes Museum, said.

“And we are so pleased with this exhibition and we want many more. I have to say it’s a bit different, a bit special.

“It fits in very much with our ethos and where we want to go. It’s doing what we need to be and that’s embedded in the community.”

New galleries

The young adults at Phoenix Rising: MK had the ambition and work to fill the entire gallery

The exhibition is taking place in one of two new galleries built in 2017 to celebrate Milton Keynes’s 50thanniversary as a new town.

The museum was established in 1973 and has a large agricultural collection as well as archaeology excavated when the new town was being built.

Enabling young adults to create

One of the Phoenix Rising: MK young adults standing proudly in front of her work

As part of its programming Phoenix Rising: MK enables its young adults to create in an accessible studio environment with professional artists and teachers.

The visual and creative arts are a major feature of what the group members do with three days a week dedicated to art, crafts and photography.

Group Director, Adrian Pinkhard, said that just like everyone else they need a way to express themselves:

“Our philosophy is very much an individual person centred one, focussing on developing skills through nurturing an individual’s own likes, strengths and passions.,” he said.

They have fostered an environment in which people feel safe and well and are able to form trusting and empathetic relationships.

Personal creative potential

Art is a major feature of the group’s programming

“It’s a non-directive approach and one which encourages individuals to find fulfilment of their own personal creative potential.

“We never seize to be amazed by what our creative group members produce given the right opportunity, high quality resources, a professional and nurturing environment.

“Our focus is on the abilities rather than the disabilities and we hope the work visitors see at the exhibition back up that view.”

The exhibition runs until October 31 at the museum’s New Gallery.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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