We should all be free to express ourselves through art

We’re incredibly excited to introduce the new Artistic Director of the Sense visual arts programme, Tanya Raabe-Webber. An acclaimed disabled artist, she’s passionate about making the arts accessible for all. Here she is to discuss her creative process, disability and her ambitions for the programme.

I’ve always been an artist; I feel I’ve been creating from the moment I was born – probably even before! Painting and drawing gave me a voice, a way to communicate my experience of the world. I use visual art to explore issues that stem from being a woman and a disabled person.

I really believe that visual arts are a brilliant tool of self-expression and something that everyone should be able to practise. Through the Sense visual arts programme, we’re going to support more people to explore and develop their creative abilities. More than that, we also want to promote this work for wider recognition, acting as a platform for disabled artists.

Find the non-BSL version of the video here.

Creativity brings connection

The work I make has enabled me to explore and challenge notions of identity and disability. My art is informed by my lived experience – my disabled self and the world I live in.

Many of the artists I’ve mentored and collaborated with over the years use their art in this way. it’s been a pleasure to team up with people and share our stories, our ideas and find connections with each other.

A painting of a landscape. Meadows and plants in the foreground and rock formations in the background
CountrySideSpecial, Acrylic on wooden panel, 2022. More information on the artwork.

As a painter of people, I also get unique opportunities to connect with my portrait sitters. One of the most interesting experiences I had was with the world-famous deaf percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie.

That sitting took place at the National Portrait Gallery in front of a live audience. It was a real sensory experience. While I painted her, she played the waterphone in response to my work, I then interpreted those sounds to create new markings on the canvas. It was magical!

Building the Sense visual arts programme

Last year, Sense and I kicked things off with the creation of our Sense Connect manifesto. Our intention with this statement was to encourage disabled people to come together to create artwork in the same space, fostering creativity, community and combating loneliness.

This was during the pandemic, so our next step was to set up an online Art Club. This enabled creative people from all over the country to join us. Now, thanks to the fundraising Sense have done over the last year, we’re ready to launch the new Sense visual arts programme!

As Artistic Director, I’ll be developing a three-year programme of exciting studio art projects, residencies, workshops and exhibitions. Together, we’ll explore different art making techniques, from drawing and painting, to print making and 3D sculpture.

It’s going to be an exciting journey of exploring and experimenting. We will learn from each other. We hope you will join us to help create a vibrant, visual arts community!

Take part in art

Find an activity that suits you. We’ve got plenty of fun guides on how to get involved in art or you can book onto an art activity near you.

A Joyful Challenge, Self-portrait, Medium: Acrylics
The Maker, Medium: Acrylics