National Exhibition Platforming Artists with Intellectual Disabilities Opens at the RCSI

by Gazette Reporter
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Ten artists with intellectual disabilities have overcome barriers to showcase their extraordinary artwork at the Connecting Artists 2023 exhibition, hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin.

The exhibition will run from Sunday, 16 July until Tuesday, 18July.

The official opening of the exhibit was attended by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, who kindly joined the ten participating artists, carefully selected from across the country to take part in the Connecting Artists 2023 programme. This online programme has provided a platform for these ten talented artists to develop their creative practice, culminating in this national exhibition.

Speaking at the event, Miriam O’Callaghan said, “It is an absolute joy and a privilege to be here today. It’s great to meet all the artists and to see their stunning art pieces in this fantastic space.”

Among the artists is Jennifer Humphreys, an artist from Blackrock, Co Cork, who overcame speech and mobility challenges as a child and has been experiencing gradual hearing loss for the past 6 years. Jennifer pursued higher education at St. John’s Central College Cork, completing various FETAC levels in art, design, craft, and fine arts.

With news of the national exhibit spreading, Jennifer has been busy preparing for the exhibition and receiving new commissions for her art.

Jennifer shared her thoughts on the Connecting Artists programme: “The programme has given me renewed hope for the future, not only for myself but also for all artists with intellectual disabilities. It promotes inclusion in the arts sector and creates more opportunities for artists like me.”

The Connecting Artists programme was designed by Miriam Spollen, founder of Connections Arts Centre (CAC), an award-winning social enterprise dedicated to connecting the disability community through the arts.

Miriam created this national online programme for visual artists with intellectual disabilities, to provide them with a supportive and immersive environment to explore their art and develop their creative practice.Miriam Spollen shared her vision: “Our plan for next year is to support up to 50 artists and have three national exhibitions. We aim to also develop our Connecting Artists programme in Europe as well as a junior programme.”She added, “This programme would not be possible without our ten wonderful mentors who volunteered their time to support each artist, and the RCSI Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Unit, for providing a platform to highlight the exceptional talents of these ten artists. It provides a safe space for artists to explore their art and techniques and learn from each other. It also prepares them for exhibiting and selling their work.”

In Ireland, one in five people (22%) live with a disability. Connections Arts Centre aims to assist people with disabilities in overcoming the barriers they encounter daily, which often lead to devaluation and exclusion. CAC’s mission is to change the perception and visibility of people with disabilities in our community by providing innovative learning environments, and truly inclusive creative spaces.

Reflecting on the impact of the event, Liz Hughes, Head of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Unit at RCSI, said, “By focusing on nurturing and encouraging the artists’ talent and confidence, Connections Arts Centre has created something special. This event’s positive impact on its participants, families, and all who attend the exhibition is inspiring.”

The exhibition at RCSI is just the beginning. The exhibit will also be showcased at the University of Atypical in Belfast, from Friday, 28th of July until Friday, 25th of August expanding its reach and impact.

Once the program is complete artists can join the ever-increasing Connecting Artist Collective. Where CAC continues to support them with monthly online meetings and opportunities to showcase and sell their work. The aim is to continue the Connecting Artists programme for years to come, supporting a new cohort of artists annually.

Connections Arts Centre is actively seeking partnership opportunities with organisations that share their vision of promoting inclusivity and empowering artists with intellectual disabilities.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to purchase the artworks, and gift cards, both at the event and online.

Entry to the exhibition is FREE, but booking is essential. Book your place now at, more information about Connections Arts Centre and the Connecting Artists programme, please visit or follow on Instagram @connectionsartscentre

Pictures Marc O’Sullivan

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