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Outsider Artists Need a Space to Thrive

Severe cerebral palsy means 29-year-old Ashleigh Muirhead needs a wheelchair, is non-verbal and has very restricted movement.

While she struggles to move or speak, Ashleigh does have a window for self-expression. She has just enough movement in one hand to hold a modified paint brush and create beautiful canvases of underwater scenes, landscapes and colourful abstracts.

Ashleigh is one of 100 people who attend the Greenacres Outsider Artists program each week under the guidance of professional artist and qualified art therapist, Victoria Velozo.

Victoria said that even though she exhibits her own art internationally, nothing in her personal career has ever compared to supporting a person with disability to express themselves artistically.

“For someone with a disability like Ashleigh, art is so much more than just creating a pretty picture for the wall,” Victoria said.

“It is her way of personal expression. She may not be able to express herself with language but she can create these artworks that are like a view into her soul.”

As demand for the Outsider Artists program increases, Victoria and her team are determined to find a bigger space so that no one is turned away from the program.

Victoria is hoping that the community will get behind this year’s M2M Challenge so that the money raised can be used to transform an empty warehouse near the Greenacres North Wollongong site into a vibrant art hub.

“Our dream is to have a space that is not only big enough to accommodate all our artists but also allow them to pursue a range of artistic techniques,” Victoria said.

“Painting on canvas works for Ashleigh but some may not find their artistic voice until they try sculpture, ceramics, mosaics or textiles.”

“It would be wonderful to be able to offer the program to anyone who wants to attend and not be confined by a lack of space or resources.”

The fifth Greenacres Mountain to Mountain Challenge will be held on Sunday, July 28.

Starting at the base of Mt Keira at Edmund Rice College and finishing at the heights of Mt Kembla, the M2M Challenge is a 13.6 kilometre run or walk for the long course and seven kilometres for the new short course.

Registrations for the Greenacres M2M Challenge are open until July 21 and participants can register online by logging onto www.m2mchallenge.com.au.

People who are not able to participate in the event, but who would like to support the Greenacres Outsider Artists can sponsor the Greenacres Team at www.m2mchallenge.com.au.