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Public Open Exhibition 2024

4 July – 4 September 2024

A colourful montage of pieces of contemporary visual artwork in many different styles. There are colourful blocks separating some of the pieces. In the centre, black text on a white square reads Level Public Open Exhibition 2024

The 2024 Public Open Exhibition has attracted disabled and non-disabled contemporary visual artists across the UK. Selected pieces have been shortlisted by a panel of industry professionals to be part of the exhibition at LEVEL Centre over the summer, running from 4 July – 4 September.

The standard of submissions was outstanding, showcasing a broad range of art styles and techniques, with work produced both by and for learning disabled, neurodivergent, and disabled artists. The panel has selected two pieces to win first and second prize in the 18 and Over category, along with winners in the Under 18 category. The cash prize for first and second place are kindly sponsored by Peak Village in Rowsley. The winners will be announced on 4 July!

But who will win the People’s Choice Award? You can vote for your favourite artwork below, or visit the centre to see the exhibition in person and vote during your visit. The work with the most votes will win a fantastic bundle of art supplies from our generous sponsor Turners Arts Supplies. Voting opens 4 July.

18 and Over Category

A person wearing a yellow dress with lots of pleats and layers lies down on their side. They have purple hair. They lie on top of various different coloured and patterned fabrics.

First Place:
‘Stop Relying on that Body’ (photography)
by Jemma Channing

Jemma is an artist from Margate who’s work largely focuses on disability justice and the intersection of arts, health and wellbeing.
‘Stop Relying on that Body’ reflects on the difficult intersection between being a drag performer, and managing a chronic illness which causes pain and fatigue. This piece centres the unseen aspect of performance – the necessary rest that comes before and after the show.

Jemma says: “I am extremely honoured to be selected as first prize in the LEVEL Open Exhibition, and thankful for this opportunity to share my work with a wider audience. It’s so important for artists to have the space to talk about their own experiences of health and disability; to be able to share aspects of our lives which often go unseen, give visitors an insight into the realities of every day life for disabled people, and how powerful art can be in telling those stories. Having an arts practice has been transformative for me in dealing with the challenges my condition presents me with. I’m hugely thankful to the LEVEL team for giving me and the other artists a platform to share this practice.”

“Being part of the panel was a real privilege. Out of many strong submissions, Jemma’s photograph ‘Stop Relying on That Body’ was a clear first prize winner. I was instantly drawn to Jemma’s visually captivating photograph and deeply moving depiction, which speaks of their experiences of being a drag performer, whilst managing chronic illness. A very important topic which is too often overlooked. Congratulations Jemma!”


Disabled Artist and Photographer

An abstract painting. It features large brush strokes arranged at various angles in different colours. It is quite muted except for some bright yellow areas in the background. Other colours are black, purples, greens, creams, reds and oranges.

Second Place:
‘How can you be disabled and happy?’ (acrylic, medium, ink, oil pastel and spray paint on paper)
by Tess Connell

Tess is a disabled, multidisciplinary artist based in London. Her work documents the unknotting of conflict and emotions with moments that both clash and are calm, and things that are both soft and hard. During a day out, a man attempted to convince Tess that she wished she was non-disabled; this work is part of Tess processing that particular moment. She has used a quote from this stranger, calling her work ‘How can you be disabled and happy?’

Tess says: “I’m thrilled to have won second prize in the Public Open Exhibition at the LEVEL Centre! Sharing my artwork How can you be disabled and happy? for the first time and receiving this recognition is incredibly affirming. I feel encouraged and motivated to keep expanding my practice.”

This is the first year I have been involved with the Open Exhibition and judging the submissions. The quality and range of work submitted was amazing and it was a real privilege to look at the art works and read about the artists and their stories. The breadth of media was particularly exciting to see and this is reflected in the exhibition which will be a really dynamic collection of works.

This mixed media piece is a response by Tess to comments made by people regarding her disability. The strength of the marks, bold use of colour and range of media provides the viewer with a dynamic and powerful comment by the artist, and insight into their feelings and emotions. We all felt very privileged to be able to view such a personal response by the artist. 
Claire Lockwood

Head Of Department, Design & Digital Arts - Nottingham Trent University

Under 18’s Category

A charcoal and pencil drawing. A person with their face scrunched up, both hands are pull cobwebs from around their face.

‘Caught in a Trap’ (Pencils and charcoal)

by Sophie

Sophie is a sixteen year old artist and poet who has Autism, NEAD (None epileptic attack disorder) and has issues with depression. ‘Caught in a Trap represents modern day struggles as somebody with a disability. The web represents depression.

People’s Choice Award

First and second place may have been decided but you can still vote for your favourite piece in The People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Turners Arts Supplies!

You can vote by visiting the exhibition in person at LEVEL or online below until 5pm on 4 September. Voting is open now.

Please only vote once for your favourite piece.

Turners Art Supplies logo. Black text on white background.

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