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About Us

We are a creative social enterprise that supports artists with intellectual disabilities, promotes their work and advocates for their inclusion in contemporary art practice. 

Arts Project Australia acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners of the land upon which Arts Project Australia stands.

Arts Project Australia has aimed high since 1974 when we set out to lead and innovate in the arts and disability sectors. Over Art Project Australia’s history, the quality of our exhibitions and artwork created in our studio has flourished, fed by a range of innovative programs and activities.

We were the first full-time art studio in Australia for artists with an intellectual disability and have built a reputation both in Australia and internationally for our achievements on this front. Proof lies in the consistency and quality of the exhibitions and programs that produced and delivered by the gallery, along with the extraordinary opportunities and experiences we have brokered for our artists, who have been included in exhibitions all over the world and are represented in countless public and private collections.

Read more about our values in our manifesto here.

Our History

 

Myra Hilgendorf OAM founded Arts Project Australia in 1974 with the insistence that artists with an intellectual disability have their work presented in a professional manner and that artists were accorded the same dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers.

Myra’s own experience of more than 20 years caring for her daughter Johanna, an artist with an intellectual disability, led her to pursue quality opportunities and resources for others. She and her colleagues took a major step in bringing the work to the attention of the art world and the general public.

1974

Arts Project Australia established by Myra Hilgendorf OAM. Starts producing professionally mounted exhibitions, forming a core part of Arts Project Australia's original mission.

Myra and Joanna Hilgendorf

1984

Studio workshop program commences at the Moorakyne stables, Lisson Grove, Hawthorn.

Arts Project Australia studio in the 1970s

1986

Arts Project Australia becomes an Incorporated Association.

Fiona Longhurst , Not titled (house with two figures), 1998, pastel on paper, 50 x 65 cm

1994

Artists exhibit internationally at MADMuseé and Centre d'Art Differencié, Belgium. Artist Julian Martin selected for the Moët & Chandon Touring Exhibition.

Julian Martin pastel

2003

Arts Project Australia moves to current location at 24 High St, Northcote.

Old entrance to Arts Project Australia

2011

Arts Project Australia is recognised by the Melbourne Awards for its 'Contribution to Community'.

Adrian Salvatore, 2011, Melbourne Cup 2011 winning jockey and horse

2012

Arts Project Australia and Leonard Joel Auction House receive an 'Arts Partnership Award' from the Australian Business and Arts Foundation.

Arts Partnership Award

2013

Arts Project Australia's collection deemed to have international significance by National Gallery of Australia significance assessment.

Arts Project Australia gallery space

2014

Three Arts Project artists feature in Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and a significant collection of work by Alan Constable and Boris Cipusev is acquired.

Alan Constable ceramic camera 2013

2014

Transformer, Julian Martin's retrospective exhibition, takes place. Martin among other artists are represented by Fleisher/Ollman in the USA at The Armory Show and Outsider Art Fair (both NY).

Julian Martin

2014

Arts Project Australia hosts international Outsider Art Conference in partnership with the University of Melbourne, hosting many prestigious local and international speakers.

Contemporary Outsider Art logo

2015

Artist Terry Williams has a sell-out solo show at White Columns, New York, curated by Ricky Swallow.

Terry Williams 2013

2016

Arts Project Australia receives an 'Outstanding Organisation' Award at the HESTA Community Sector Awards, recognising its contribution to the community.

Outstanding Organisation – 2016 HESTA Community Sector Awards

2016

Arts Project Australia presents a pop-up gallery in Collins Place for one month, supported by NKN Gallery and Gandel Philanthropy.

Collins Place Pop-up Gallery, CBD Melbourne

2017

Arts Project Australia hosted ‘Looking Outside the Box’, a national forum for supported studios across Australia, welcoming over 50 supported studio staff working in the sector.

Arts Project Australia SSN conference

2018

Arts Project Australia gets a facelift to increase the organisation's street-front visibility.

Arts Project Australia front of building

2018

Arts Project Australia earns an 'Excellence in Employment Outcomes Award' from the Victorian Disability Awards, for its career pathway offerings for artists.

Eden Menta - Photo Kate Longley

2018

Arts Project Australia won a community partnership with Yarra Trams, which saw an APA tram hit the streets in 2018. Artists Warren O’Brien and Cathy Staughton had their work featured.

Yarra Trams, Warren O'Brien

2019

Arts Project Australia launches its first off-site Traineeship Program, where two Arts Project artists participate in a fully paid 12-month traineeship

Michael Camakaris at Leonard Joel

2019

Arts Project Australia partners with curator and artist Catherine Bell, Limb Family Foundation, NETS Victoria and Australia Council for the Arts to tour the group exhibition FEM-aFFINITY nationally. The exhibition features work by Arts Project and invited Australian female artists.

Janelle Low and Eden Menta photograph

2019

Arts Project Australia receives a Jack Brockhoff Foundation Grant to create a selection of artist videos and an organisation video to promote our artists and what we do.

Mark Smith artist

2020

It's the year of COVID-19 and everything changes. On the 16 March, Arts Project Australia closes the studio and one week later the gallery follows, closing until 2021. 150 artists start working from home and many transition to our inaugural online 'Satellite Art Program', offering virtual studio sessions via Zoom. While government restrictions and social distancing are enforced, 100 work-from-home art packs are delivered to artists and they continue to create and stay connected.

Lachlan Turk, The Cliff, 2018, pigment ink print on Hahnemühle Bamboo, 25 x 38 cm, LTDP18-0001 1/3

2020

In partnership with long-time supporter Leonard Joel, we present our first-ever online fundraising auction 'The Day We All Went Home' with resounding success. With no fees and no buyer’s premium, we raise over $47,000, with 50% going to participating artists and 50% going to Arts Project Australia.

Leasing Artwork Arts Project Australia

COVID-19 UPDATE: ARTS PROJECT IS CURRENTLY CLOSED. WE CONTINUE TO OPERATE ONLINE AND SALES WILL BE PROCESSED ONCE A WEEK.