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 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.

Our Team

“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.”

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive Officer of Open Arts

Eileen Branagh

Chief Executive Officer

Beverley McGeown, Musical Director of Open Arts

Beverley McGeown

Musical Director

Jemma Robinson, Finance and Administration Assistant for Open Arts

Jemma Robinson

Finance & Administration Assistant

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 Policies

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.