a new art exhibition opens at the Gala Gallery – Palatinate

By Nina Butterfield

The Gala Gallery in Durham has opened a new art exhibition until December 30 called ‘We Can We Will’. The exhibition, presented by Wider World Project (WWP) and artist Dawn Felicia Knox, features works by young adults who have additional support needs.

The project grew out of a workshop WWP members attended in 2019. The workshop centered around themes from the work produced by the late Norman Cornish, a Spennymoor-born 20th century mining artist. Members created works inspired by the workshop and compiled a small photography exhibit at the WWP headquarters at the Belmont Community Center.

Following the success of the initial workshop, local artist Knox was contacted to organize further workshops with WWP, which led to the birth of the “We Can We Will” project. Knox’s workshops focused on the use of multimedia art, including photography, painting, creative writing and filmmaking, much of which is reflected in the exhibition itself.

The exhibition features a diverse range of artwork produced by WWP members, including a series of photographs and a short film. The intention of the exhibition is to provide an outlet for young adults in need of additional support to “share how they see themselves and each other”.

The gallery features thought-provoking slogans reflecting a surge in positive disability awareness and a desire for a more progressive narrative around disability that recognizes the autonomy of those affected. A quote included in the exhibit reads: “My needs are not special, the way my needs are met may be different, but they are the same as everyone else’s.”

“We want to be seen, be part of the local community and make a difference in the world we live in”

WWP member

Participants in WWP workshops used writing prompts that asked them to choose a different aspect of themselves to express through words and pictures. Throughout their workshops with Knox, they learned photography and lighting techniques to create images representing their chosen aspect of themselves. Their responses to the initial prompts are included in the exhibit, some of which included “I like it”, “I’m not afraid” and “I enjoyed it all”.

The photographs and short films featured in the exhibition are described by WWP as “bright and cheerful” and convey a zest that the monotony of everyday life often lacks. Asked about the exhibition and the intention behind it, a WWP member said, “We want to be seen, to be part of the local community and to make a difference in the world we live in.

WWP is a grassroots organization that helps young adults with additional support needs living in County Durham. Group members work together to organize a wide variety of programs designed to build life skills, self-esteem and confidence and promote positive awareness of disability. Previous WWP events have included photography workshops and a harvest festival.

Dawn Felicia Knox is a Northeastern artist who works with mediums such as photography, painting, sound and sculpture. On her website, she describes that her art “reinterprets archival and found narratives by bringing them into a larger discussion of art, science, myth, and identity.” His work is featured in many museums and galleries in York, Newcastle and on the Yorkshire Coast.

Regarding her work with WWP, she said “it has been an honor and a joy to work with the group and share the skills needed to help them achieve their vision.”

The exhibition is available free of charge at Gala Gallery until Friday, December 30. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Photo credit: Nina Butterfield

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