Madeline Alterman, Artbox London

Fellow School for Social Entrepreneurs

In a nutshell:

  • Founder: Madeline Alterman
  • Organisation: Artbox London is an inclusive art studio and gallery selling art by people with learning disabilities and autism
  • SSE programmeLloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Trade Up Programme 2017/18, jointly funded by Lloyds Banking Group and the National Lottery Community Fund
  • SSE school: London
  • Business model: Sales of artwork at exhibitions and online shop, with profits split between Artbox and the artists

What does your social enterprise do?

Artbox runs art workshops, trips and exhibition opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism so that they can create art, develop and learn new skills, meet friends and earn an income from their art. Our volunteer programme and exhibitions also ensure that people with and without learning disabilities meet and get to know each other; and for people to see the talents and abilities of our artists.

People with learning disabilities and autism have limited opportunities for leisure activities, meeting friends and getting paid employment. We do our best to make sure they’re able to access the arts through our workshops and trips, meet other with and without disabilities and have opportunities to earn money.

Why are you passionate about this cause?

I’m very much motivated by the artists and the variety of art. It’s brilliant and I’m pleased to have it on display both in the gallery and in my own home! I’m also really proud when the work sells – it’s a great boost for our artists and also recognises their talent.

“They have become artists, and are no longer just defined by their disability.”

Is there a case study that demonstrates your impact?

Hisba, an artist with Down’s syndrome, has been coming to Artbox since its beginning in 2011. In 2011 she earned an income for the first time when selling some art. As a result of this, her confidence grew and she gained an interest in work and earning money! She now works part time and has a salary! She has continued to sell an increasing number of artwork through our online shop, office commissions and at our exhibitions. Hisba has also promoted one of the Artbox exhibitions through a live interview on ITV news, has attended meetings with Artbox, has helped to sell artwork and has given presentations about her art and the organisation. She is now a volunteer mentor and studio assistant and remains an encouraging and inspiring role model for the other artists.

What was your biggest challenge in starting your social enterprise?

Time! I was working full time for the first 2-3 years of setting up Artbox and so there was never enough time – and still isn’t, even now I work full time on the project. However, volunteers and pro bono support have helped Artbox to grow and develop. Utilising other people’s skills is key!

How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?

I have loved my experience with SSE – it’s such a supportive and encouraging environment. The thing I have loved most about the programme is the chance to meet and learn from others who are also going through the non-traditional route of setting up and growing a social enterprise.

“I would, and have, recommended SSE to others – what’s not to love about this level and quality of support?”

What are your plans for the future?

We now have a studio in Islington but we’re starting to think about opening up more studios in London. We’re also diversifying the art workshops and looking at ways we can increase art sales through our online shop and office commissions.