20th October 2018: A disabled artist is set to showcase his latest thought-provoking art exhibition – all thanks to the creative input of disabled and vulnerable adults in Northamptonshire.

Jason Wilsher-Mills, 49, has been working closely with charities – Teamwork Trust and Oakley Grange – to gather the ideas of adults with mental health needs, learning and physical disabilities, and develop an ambitious digital art project to represent different aspects of the disabled community.

Eighteen months in the making, Jason’s exhibition, ‘Corby Totems’, is based on two vibrant and eye-catching disabled sculptures and will be unveiled at a prestigious red carpet event for those involved in the project at the Savoy Cinema, Corby on Monday 12th November.

The project uses ground-breaking digital art so that spectators are able to unlock music, lights and animated movies around the sculptures and bring characters’ stories to life. It is being supported by Arts Council England and The Mighty Creative, and is the biggest funded project in the UK for an individual artist.

Jason, from Sleaford, is a wheelchair user and is frequently bed-bound by chronic polyneuropathy and chronic fatigue syndrome. He said he fell in love with the people of Corby when he worked on the ‘Made in Corby’ project years ago – that is why he wanted to return.

“I have been amazed and inspired by those in the county who have helped me develop this project,” he said. “Corby Totems will challenge assumptions – not only because I am disabled myself, but because of the incredible individuals I have been working with at Teamwork Trust and Oakley Grange.

“My other digital art projects have never been on this scale and lots of people told me the technology was too complex, but I have proven them wrong. Telling the hidden stories of disabled and vulnerable people and giving them the opportunity to be directly involved every step of the way was what this was always about. I have simply made the sculptures based on their ideas – it is really their art.”

The Corby Totems are hand painted, fibreglass models based on male and female disabled characters – ‘Princess’ and ‘Rocker’. Their stories are told via a free app on mobile phones and devices which can be accessed when standing next to the models, and there is no other art project that has used the same combination of BETA technology and augmented reality.

With mounting interest from reputable art organisations on a national and international level, Jason says the launch event is just the beginning.

“Public sculpture is generally based on the able-bodied which is why I feel so deeply passionate about putting those with the quietest voices under the spotlight for all the right reasons,” said Jason. “One of the reasons I chose to work with Teamwork Trust and Oakley Grange is because they believe this too. Art is most powerful when people can relate to it and the only way to do that is by getting it out there for all to see. I dream of having Totems all over the world and when it happens I will involve everyone who has contributed in one way or another. Living with any disability is difficult and I certainly don’t intend to say goodbye. I will continue to give opportunities to the vulnerable and disabled adults who have been instrumental in this project – without them it just wouldn’t have happened. I am so proud to have worked with them.”

Victoria Bell, Head of Learning & Development, Teamwork Trust said: “Giving our service-users access to the same chances, choices and opportunities as others is one of our key priorities as a charity, which fits beautifully with what Jason is trying to achieve. Although when he first approached us to get involved we had no idea just how fascinating our partnership would become. Jason is full of passion and our members have been totally engaged – coming up with some incredible ideas which have influenced the project. Teamwork has been given an opportunity to work with an inspiring artist on a ground-breaking project which people can really relate to. And with the red carpet launch event and Jason’s plans to take his art worldwide, we are sure it’s going to get even more exciting.”

A number of Northamptonshire schools have also been involved in Corby Totems. The project will be unveiled to members of the public in January at Rooftop Arts Centre, Corby.