About Us

Open Arts engages with disabled people in delivering high quality activities and events across a range of art forms. We do this by promoting artistic excellence and encouraging the participation of people with and without disabilities.

Our Mission  To inspire and support the creativity and artistic development of disabled people.

Our Vision – A society that actively values and promotes the creativity and artistic contribution of disabled people.

Our Values – Open Arts is committed to the following 5 values, which underpin every aspect of our work. Inclusion; Respect; Excellence; Integrity and Empowerment.

Our Work

Open Arts runs highly successful, participative arts activities and events in numerous art forms, to enable disabled people to develop their creativity and artistic practice. It began as a research project in 1988 and became a charitable company in 1992, one of the first dedicated arts and disability organisations in Northern Ireland.

“Just because you are disabled it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy the arts, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in your particular art form and that’s what Open Arts is all about, opening up the arts to everyone.”

There is no similar participatory work happening in N.I., with the ambition and scope; multiple art forms with so many individuals with such varying disabilities and additional support needs: our activities engage people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, sensory impairments and mental health illness. We work to improve the artistic and creative life of disabled people.

In addition to our year round programmes, we produce other stand alone projects to engage more disabled people in the arts, including older people, children and young people.

Really want to get to know us? Why not check out this 30 minute video that was made for our 25th birthday in 2017.

Only got a couple of mins? Here is the bitesize 3 mins video version.

“Open Arts is an organisation which has a very special place in my heart! The ethos that runs through our classes and projects promotes inclusion, empowerment and creativity alongside professionalism, friendship and acceptance. Everyone has room to grow as an individual and be part of the incredibly supportive Open Arts family.”

Our Team

Staff

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive Officer of Open Arts

Eileen Branagh – Chief Executive Officer

Email: eileen@openartsni.org

Eileen has been working in the arts sector for 20 years. She took up her position as CEO in April 2013. Prior to this she was Manager with The Beat Carnival for 10 years. Previous to working with Beat Carnival, she was Production Manager with Open Arts on the large-scale spectacle for the Opening of the Special Olympics in Dublin, 2003 and also worked with numerous other festivals. In 2018 she completed CO3s ‘Excelling in Leadership’ programme and in 2019, she achieved a Post Graduate Certificate (Distinction) in Executive Leadership with Ulster University through the Creating Futures programme, funded by Belfast City Council.  She is Vice Chairperson of Crescent Arts Centre and Chairperson of Paradosso Theatre Company.

Beverley McGeown – Musical Director

Email: bev@openartsni.org

Beverley has worked with Open Arts since 1995. She is the primary tutor for Javanese Gamelan in Northern Ireland, having trained in Indonesia in 1995 and 2002. She is Director of the Open Arts Community Choir, which she has led over the past 20 years to great success and accolades. She also leads music sessions for adults with disabilities, including those living with dementia, and is the lead musician for Open Arts’ In Tune project, funded by Children in Need.

Jemma Robinson – Finance & Administration Assistant

Email: jemma@openartsni.org 

Jemma has been with Open Arts since March 2015. Prior to this she worked as an accounts clerk for 9 years with a family owned company before moving to the arts sector in 2013. She studied music at South Eastern Regional College, Bangor and at Queens University, Belfast, where she completed a BSc in Music Technology specialising in electronic music composition for film. In 2014 she collaborated with Irish writer Caroline Healey in her mixed media exhibition “Fully Booked.” The exhibition was showcased at the 2014 Belfast Book festival and was the first public showcase of her work. She is also a member in the Open Arts Community Choir.

Artists, Arts Access Assistants and Volunteers

Open Arts uses a bank of professional, experienced and trained community artists to facilitate our various classes and workshops. The artists, who are involved in the delivery of our programme are some the most experienced facilitators in working with disabled people in Northern Ireland.  Open Arts also uses Arts Access Assistants on a sessional basis. Arts Access Assistants are engageed specifically to ensure that any participant who requires additional support has access to it and can participate to the best of their ability in a safe and enjoyable environment. Volunteers are mostly referred through the Action Mental Health programme, New Horizons, which helps people to overcome the effects of mental ill health and in many cases return to work.

Our Board

Chairperson, Margaret Mann

Vice-Chairperson, Andrea Hope

Treasurer, Ian Lindsay
Secretary, Shane Finnegan
Caitriona Murtagh
Fonsie Corr
Judith McConville
Katherine Hughes
Sinead O’Donnell

Our Polices

Open Arts ensures the governance of the organisation complies with the requirements of the law and best practice. We are registered with the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland and The Fundraising Regulator.

You can download a selection of our policies below. If you would like information about any of our other policies please contact Eileen, eileen@openartsni.org.