YORK charity New Visuality is bringing newly designed innovative artworks to the Blueberry Academy Summer Fayre the Melbourne Centre, Escrick Street, York, on June 8.
“This annual event is increasingly popular with its learners, learners’ families, and its staff,” says charity co-founder Greg McGee. “Traditionally it has consolidated the work of Blueberry Academy’s commercial arm, Blueberry Academy Pop Up Shop, now at 108 Walmgate,York. Now organisers are keen to widen the net to attract the wider community.”
Curriculum manager Laura Kent says: “The promise of lovely items available for purchase, plenty of tea and coffee and as much cake as you can eat has served us well in the past and is a good reflection of the positive energy created at our events.
“However, we’d like to see members of the public attend, so if people could please spread the word, that would be great. Our collaboration with New Visuality has meant that we have been able to work on the exhibitions we have here on display, as well as items for sale that have been designed using AI software.”
Formed in 2007 by Andy Bucklee and Andrew Cambridge, Blueberry Academy provides specialist support for young people and adults with learning differences, autism, social, emotional and mental health needs and/or other disabilities, with employability and independence as educational priorities.
New Visuality, directed by artist husband-and-wife team Greg and Ails McGee, has collaborated on visual arts projects since the beginning. “We received funding from Arts Council England’s National Lottery project grants to work with York’s wheelchair-using community,” says Greg.
“The project, Better Wheels, has gathered a groundswell after working with wheelchair-using residents in Acomb, Westfield, Rawcliffe and Clifton Without. Our plan is to integrate York’s wheelchair-using community with artists in sessions and exhibitions, interfusing traditional skills with innovation, celebrating access to cultural sites.
“It’s been a great success with art displays at Sanderson House, Take5 and Dalton Terrace’s Art Camp. When it comes to Blueberry Academy’s Summer Fayre, we thought, ‘this is an opportunity to build on the work we’ve been doing and to bring in some humour, AI technology and a game-changing exhibition’.”
New Visuality invited digital artist Alex Utley to participate. “Alex is an activist and artist, whose vision on accessibility provides the perfect portal for what Better Wheels has become,” says Ails. “The paintings I created were inspired by him, and the title, Shot In The Dark, a tribute to the Ozzy Osbourne song, was his idea.
“Basically, it’s a series of paintings shot through with positivity. That’s what we got from Alex, and the curatorial decisions were in the main part taken by him, with help from other Blueberry learners.”
Shot In The Dark will be on view for visitors to the summer fayre, alongside stalls selling prints, candles, jewellery, cards and much more, including coasters designed by Alex using innovative AI software, Canva.
He is pleased with the results. “Accessibility is such a massive issue in York, and though I and thousands like me have frustrations, there has been a lot of good work over the past few years,” he says.
“I thought it would be better to focus on the humorous side of what it is to be a resident like me in a heritage city in 2023. The coasters incorporate my ideas visually, I’m really proud of them and I’m looking forward to the next limited-edition series.”
Greg is confident the project will continue to engage. “We have kiosks around Acomb where members of the public can leave ideas in a light-hearted way on what access means to them. We have plans to exhibit art based on access with the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre in Blossom Street.
“We’re set to sit down with policy makers from City of York Council on how we can continue to make progress on York’s accessibility. In the meantime, the summer belongs to Blueberry Academy. We hope to see you there.”
Blueberry Academy Summer Fayre, Melbourne Centre, Escrick Street, York, June 8, 1pm to 3pm. Please note: no parking is available.