A celebration of thirty years of supporting artists with learning disabilities in Leeds

Arthur the Sheep Light Night 2010. All images courtesy of the artists and Pyramid. Via Creative Boom submission.

Leeds-based arts charity Pyramid is celebrating its 30th birthday this autumn with an exciting programme of exhibitions, performances, events and parties by artists with learning disabilities.

For three decades, Pyramid has supported people with learning difficulties from all backgrounds to discover the arts, develop their own creative practice as an artist and campaigned tirelessly to disrupt the "institutional barriers that prevent its artists from enjoying the same access to workspaces, studios, galleries and audiences that are afforded to other artists".

As Pyramid celebrates this special milestone, it will reveal ambitious plans for a new HQ by 2023, providing its artists with access to studio space, maker space, exhibition space and creating an industry hub for artists with learning disabilities sharing best practice from across Europe and beyond.

Liam Hirst, an artist who has worked with Pyramid since the age of 13 and who is now a trustee as well as a practising artist, says: "Our vision is that all artists with learning disability will have the opportunity to discover and explore the arts and to develop their creative practice to the full extent of their dreams and ambitions like I have been able to.

Visual Art by High Rise Groups

Visual Art by High Rise Groups

"We have some of the most talented and exciting artists in the region in Pyramid and we want them to be recognised as such. Most excitingly, Pyramid plans to raise the money over the next four years to build a new HQ, which will be the most exciting centre for contemporary art in the north of England, run by people with learning disabilities – a resource for which Leeds can be truly proud. The 30th birthday party is your chance to get involved and be part of this ambition."

Pyramid was set up in 1989 within the walls of Meanwood Park Hospital as a weekly, volunteer-run arts club for the patients who spent their lives there. When the hospital closed in 1996 the Arts Club became 'Pyramid of Arts', a project to keep the patients in touch with each other through arts activity.

Since then the charity has supported over 1,000 people with learning disabilities to discover and explore the arts, and to make great, high quality artwork for a wide public, exhibited work at every major cultural venue in the city, creating large-scale works for events like Light Night, the Tour de Yorkshire and the Cultural Olympiad, and creating three permanent sculptures at Thwaite Mills, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm, and Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills.

Thought Maps by Matthew Watson

Thought Maps by Matthew Watson

James Hill, director of Pyramid adds: "We are hugely proud of our artists and have supported them to apply for funding, win commissions and create high profile work which has been exhibited across the UK and Europe. Our artists are some of the brightest talents in the UK right now but are often overlooked for gallery shows, new commissions and other opportunities as they require additional support to undertake these projects.

"As we look back on thirty years of fantastic art from artists with learning disabilities we’re really excited to reveal plans for our future starting with a programme of events, exhibitions, talks and tours to celebrate our milestone birthday in style and invite new audiences to discover the work of our artists."

As part of the 'Pyramid 30' celebration, the charity will host a series of events across the city from October to December 2019. There will be a retrospective exhibition at Prime Studios on Kirkstall Road, projections on Light Night, and an exhibition of new work created in response to the anniversary at the Tetley Centre for Contemporary Art.

The Sausage Atlas by Andrew Towse

The Sausage Atlas by Andrew Towse

Tickets are available for the charity’s Big Birthday Party on Thursday 18 October in support of the new HQ, which will be an opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of artists past and present, to see performances and to find out about, and support, the charity’s ambitions for the future. Stay updated via pyramid-of-arts.org.uk.