Worthing Museum has thrown open its doors to a very different type of exhibition. It’s called ‘Invisible People’ and features work by Guardian cartoonist, Henny Beaumont and young people with learning disabilities.
This is part of a larger campaign towards celebrating the successes of young artists with learning disabilities in collaboration with Superstar Arts and Rocket Artists. Henny’s daughter, Beth Beaumont, who has Downs Syndrome, learning disabilities and a fantastic sense of colour has contributed a painting, ‘Lily the dog.’
Henny said that only 5% of adults with learning disabilities in the general population are in paid employment. She said: “In Beth’s college 65% of students’ progress to paid employment, it shows what can be done with the right training.”
When talking about challenging perceptions about people with learning disabilities and autistic people, she said: “There is still huge ignorance. As a parent, you feel invisible and your children’s needs are invisible. The young artist who painted the Harry Styles painting came along to Worthing to see it displayed. It was wonderful to see how pleased she was – I can’t say it was validation for her – but that is my hope, that it helps people to feel validated and seen.”
Betsy King is a young woman with autism who came along to the exhibition with her Mum, Kathleen King. She is studying drama and was not diagnosed with autism until she was 16. This is not uncommon with girls. She said the assessments were “quite exposing” but she really benefits now from group therapy and the support network as well as access to 1:1 therapy.
Betsy’s favourite painting by Henny is of the court system, showing a judge surrounded by books that are toppling off a pile and crushing young people with learning disabilities underneath.
Additional support for learners with learning disabilities can transform their time in education and greatly improve their chances of progression into employment. It is tragic that for many parents there is such a battle to access the support.
Henny was commissioned by Bild to explore the social care world – the barriers facing young people with learning disabilities and the system that sometimes makes it very difficult for families to get help.
Ben Higgins, Bild Chief Executive, said: “We have been privileged to have Henny Beaumont working with Bild and Respond on our recent trauma-focussed project and webinars. All the images have been co-produced through listening to professionals and people with lived experience. Henny has created incredibly impactful images, providing a powerful visual representation of people’s experiences of trauma.
“Far too many people with learning disabilities and autistic people have experienced complex trauma.
“This project and the accompanying images have helped deepen awareness of understanding of trauma across education, health and social care.”
A lot of Henny’s work emphasises the trauma experienced by young people with learning disabilities and the multiple barriers they face to inclusion.
Henny also teamed up with Brigit Connolly to produce the ceramics (plates and mugs) during workshops. They can be made to order for a limited time while the exhibition is underway.
Henny has worked tirelessly in Stoke Newington with Kate Revere and Stoke Newington Business Association on ‘Invisible people N16,’ an exhibition in over 90 shops, where art work by people with learning disabilities, autistic people and people from marginalised communities was displayed in shop windows.
Look out for Henny’s book; “Hole in the heart. Bringing up Beth.” Henny will be doing a book signing at the museum in the autumn.
‘Invisible People’ exhibition will run until 30 October at Worthing Museum.