Artists First

Untitled, Joan Clews Self Portrait, Peter Sutton Mask 1, Kevin Hogan

About Us

Artists First is a group of 16 disabled visual artists with learning difficulties based in Bristol.
We have been working together since 1988. We are used to running our own studios and have organised and been part of many exhibitions, residencies and open studio events.

Artists First includes artists who met while attending Social Services' Day Centres and artists who have lived in long stay residential hospitals. We believe that as a group we can support each other and that we can do powerful work together, things that we could not do alone.

Since 2005 we have been based in a studio in Southmead, near where most of us live. We are making new work for exhibitions so people can see who we are and what we do.

We've recently begun working on one of our biggest projects yet as part of our 25th anniversary year.

To watch a short film introducing Artists First, go to

Exhibitions and News

Totterdown Arts Trail

Front Room Arts Trail, Totterdown
19th & 20th November
We'll be exhibiting and selling our work at this amazing Bristol event. Find us in Holy Nativity Church, Wells Road where we'll have paintings and our ever-popular prints for sale.

The Clowns, by Carol Chilcott

Perceptions 2016: The art of citizenship
Cork, until 28 October 2016
We're delighted that 5 Artists First artists are part of this international exhibition of artists with disabilities. Art in Motion (AIM), another group of Bristol artists are also part of the exhibition.

Nick Selway at Arnos Vale

Arnos Vale Cemetery field trip, September 2016 We explored this amazing place and made lots of drawings. We used the restored Speilman Centre as a base and met Janine Marriott, the Learning Co-ordinator. A day like this is great for us. One of the best things about it is being outside, as a group, showing disabled people as artists and engaging with people through our art. We met cafe staff and other visitors: people really do like to see art being made. Some of us used the bus (we took on the challenge of a new bus route). Thanks to all the people who helped others get there. We'd love to go back.

Steve Canby painting a portrait of Tracey Fry

Artists First Celebrating 25 years
Past, Present and Future
Artists First has an amazing archive of artworks and we all have great stories to tell of how art has helped us and why we like working as a group.
We've begun work on sorting out our archive and recording our stories. We'll make films and photograph more of our work and add it all to a new website. We've also been making new art inspired by this history.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

New members' mono printing workshop.

Artists First is expanding Earlier this year we ran workshops for new members. As a result we have lots of new members and the studio is very busy every week, bringing new ideas and ways of working to Artists First.
Thanks to Wills Charitable Trust for supporting this work.

Joan Clews - Faces in a crowd

Artists First exhibit in Southmead Hospital Artists First are thrilled and proud to be exhibiting over 30 paintings in the new Southmead Hospital building as part of the Fresh Arts programme to enhance NHS environments.


Click here to view information on past exhibitions.

Who We Are and How to Contact Us


Steve Canby, Brenda Carr, Carol Chilcott, Joan Clews, Brenda Cook, Brian Davis, Stacey Fish, Kevin Hogan, Tina Kelly, Sarah McGreevy, Nicholas Selway, Kathy Stewart and Peter Sutton

Artists First Coordination

Andy Harris and Louise Planton

Artists First Trustees

Michael Prior, Marion Steiner, Pauline Heslop and Felicity Inkpen

Click here for more information about our trustees.

Our Studio

In January 2010, Artists First moved into studio space in The Bristol Centre for Music and the Arts, Stanton Road (off Pen Park Road), Southmead, Bristol BS10 5SJ.

Artists First Contact Details

Artists First
13 Friendship Road

Tel: 07890 524226



‘Artists First Celebrating 25 years’ Heritage Project is being supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks also to The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Bristol City Council Single Project Fund and Grassroots funding via The Quartet Community Foundation, The Lark Trust, The Speilman Charitable Trust and The Wills Charitable Trust for recent funding support.

Artists First is also supported by donations and the sale of work.

Firebird Firebird Firebird
Lying on Patchwork, Liz Lane

All paintings © Artists First
Photographs courtesy of David Gilliland and Amanda Harman.
Website courtesy of Ben Spencer and Redweather Productions.

Artists First is a Registered Charity: 1128115
Artists First is a Limited Company: 6015649