Growing confidence through art
Leah Taylor Jones is very passionate about making sure learning disabled people get taken seriously as artists, performers and writers. She shows the value of supporting the creativity of learning disabled people and nurturing their identity as artists.
Says Leah, “We should take learning disabled people’s dreams seriously.”
Leah has a learning disability and Down Syndrome. Eight years ago she started her own creative business, Positive You. Positive You helps learning disabled people grow confidence and self-esteem through supporting them to make art.
One of her art exhibitions was a pop-up arts display ’21 Stories, 21 chromosomes’ held at the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre during Down Syndrome Awareness Week, 18th-24th March 2019. It was organised as part of the global celebration of achievements of people with Down Syndrome, telling their stories and platforming their voices.
Says Leah, “As a person with Down Syndrome, throughout my life I have become a part of a wonderful community of people with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a genetic condition from birth where there is a third copy of chromosome 21 in a person’s DNA. With this in mind, I asked 21 local people who have Down Syndrome to share their success stories.”
Leah has also appeared on BBC North West Tonight, speaking about her 2019 art exhibition ‘Recipe for a Good Life.’ The art exhibition explored what a good life means for people with a learning disability. You can watch her interview here:
Through her art and exhibitions, Leah has shown that learning disabled people have important stories to tell and their art should be included more in famous galleries.
When Leah was younger, she struggled with her confidence and with liking who she was as a person with Down Syndrome. She often hid from the world, only communicating through her mum.
After joining a local self-advocacy group, Halton Speak Out, she learnt about her rights and how to use her voice. She realised there is no such thing as normal and that without her Down Syndrome she wouldn’t be the person she is. The people around her have noticed the difference in her confidence, especially her husband Andrew who she married in June this year. Her art expresses that we are all different and that this is beautiful. Her art projects help other people realise this too.
Leah also wrote a lot of poems when she was a teenager, one of them was picked up by one of her colleagues at her self-advocacy group and was put to music and made into a song. The song explains what it feels like to be a person with Down Syndrome. Have a listen below:
“…Leah … plays a positive public role in helping us understand what people with learning disabilities can truly achieve. She does this via Twitter, via her website, her art projects and working with others. She is an inspirational figure – creative and an activist too – making things in the world and changing people’s minds.” Marie-Anne McQuay, Head of Programme, Bluecoat centre for contemporary arts in Liverpool.
Leah is also very passionate about learning disabled people being taken more seriously in research. Leah and her PA Jade French have written an academic journal article, describing the story of Leah’s arts project Positive You.
Leah describes having a learning disability as not being able to do things as quickly as other people. This doesn’t always mean she can’t do things, but that she needs more time. Leah and her PA Jade describe this as ‘taking the scenic route’; it’s not the fastest way to get somewhere, but it is more beautiful.