Bird Life Jungle Disco was painted by artists and staff from Studio A, a supported arts studio based in Sydney that creates professional pathways for artists with intellectual disability. Studio A tackles the barriers that these artists face in accessing conventional education and professional development and supports them to achieve their artistic and economic aspirations.
The artwork is a collaboration between seven Studio A artists and features birds and animals at play in a busy social world. Studio A birds come in all shapes, sizes and colours – the artists believe it is their diversity that empowers them. The mural speaks to the character and passion of each of the Studio A artists who made it, and to the diversity and energy of the UTS community itself.
Inspired by the UTS Tower, Studio A artist Victoria Atkinson has painted a motif of towers that allude to the aspirations, drive and achievements of university students. Victoria has dressed her towers in electric colours to create a cityscape that mirrors the energy and excitement of the urban campus. Giant parrots, owls and other native Australian birds and animals by Katrina Brennan, Emily Crockford, Annette Galstaun, Megan Pelham, Lisa Scott and Damian Showyin populate the street and jungle scenes in surprising ways, encouraging creative thinking, play and imagination.
Studio A is a Sydney-based arts company that tackles the barriers that artists living with intellectual disability face in accessing conventional education, professional development pathways and opportunities needed to be successful and renowned visual artists. It is structured to operate as a social enterprise, meaning revenue derived from Studio A programs is invested back into the organisation to increase its artistic and social capacity.
Studio A contributes to various personal outcomes for the artists, including increased self-esteem and aspirations, broader social networks and a sense of belonging, financial security and improved mental health. Studio A actively works to reduce stigma associated with people with disability and increase diversity and inclusion within the broader community. The only studio of its kind in NSW, Studio A is driven to ensure artists with intellectual disability have a voice in contemporary Australian culture.
Studio A has partnered and collaborated with organisations, arts institutions and collections including Carriageworks, Westpac, Mud Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney College of the Arts, UNSW Art & Design, Underbelly Arts Festival, Artbank and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Stella Rosa McDonald, Curator, UTS ART: Today we're launching Bird life Jungle Disco, a large-scale wall-painting by Studio A. Bird Life Jungle Disco is full of life and colour, and the Studio A artists wanted the students to live, work and socialise amongst it. There's so much beautiful detail in this work; you can see the artists' hand, you can notice the drips, scratches and marks that they've made. It's a very personal, public artwork for the students.
Meagan Pelham, Studio A artist: Wow! Owls! Yay! It's my owl! Yay!
Annette Galstaun, Studio A artist: This is one of my birds. Difficult to draw. I'm good in the colours of my bird and this is one of my favourites. My mum and my two sisters are proud of me. They love my art and they love my birds. And, I'm proud of myself.
Victoria Atkinson, Studio A artist: Up here. There's a building here – my own. My name's Victoria Atkinson. I drew background for the building. So the audience can go see a beautiful building. It's my dream.
Gabrielle Mordy, CEO & Artistic Director, Studio A: The design of Bird Life Jungle Disco intends to encourage socialisation in the food court space. The birds are diverse, different, just like the people here at UTS. The birds are chattering, they're having fun, they're dancing. The towers are alive. Because this is a space of respite from study at UTS. This is a space of that very important socialisation which is a part of Studio A and a part of the cultural life at UTS.