- Culture Designer interview
|▲ Merchandise produced at THISABLED|
Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I am Kim Hyeon-il, the CEO of THISABLED. THISABLED is an agency for artists with developmental disabilities. We help their special talents shine through. Currently, we have 25 artists signed under our agency.
Can you tell us more about the artists at THISABLED?
It’s difficult to introduce all 25 of them here individually, but each artist has their own distinct style and story. The artists at THISABLED work with diverse forms and types of media including western painting, eastern painting, oil painting, acrylic painting, pencil sketches, brush-pen painting, and more. Some of them work with paper and some even work with garbage. We have artists active globally.
As an agency for artists with developmental disabilities, what kind of activities do you do?
Our major projects are “Always Near You” and “Nearer to You.” “Always Near You” is a project where we produce and sells merchandise printed with our artists’ work. We print the artwork on golf balls, mugs, eco bags, portable batteries, and fans. We give 30% of the proceeds back to the artists so they can continue making art.
|▲ THISABLED’s Exhibition, “After the Spring, Comes the Bear”|
Applying their art to merchandise sounds very inspiring. What kind of considerations and efforts are involved in the process of production?
First, we receive the arts and take photographs because we must obtain high definition copies to apply them to the merchandise. Next, we re-design them to produce the goods. Before we go into mass production, we make a lot of samples. Though we end up discarding many of them we try almost every idea because we believe the design can improve when we go through these failures. I think these efforts definitely help us enhance the quality of our products.
I can see how much care you put into the project “Always Near You.” What do you do through “Nearer to You”?
Through “Nearer to You,” we try to eliminate prejudice against developmental disorders through exhibitions, promotional booths, and awareness education. Recently, we held the “After the Spring, Comes the Bear” exhibition. We displayed the works of 17 artists from our agency. Thanks to the over 2,000 visitors who came to the exhibition, we were able to appreciate the significance of their work even more. Through these events, we aim to help the artistry of the developmentally disabled appeal to the general public. We want them to become “nearer to” the lives of the artists.
What do you think is the strength of THISABLED?
I believe it’s the art made by our artists. Because they express themselves through art, their paintings are honest and they tell original stories. When you observe their art, it feels like the picture is talking to you, and these stories are very inspiring. We are also doing our best to maintain the pricing and qualities of products compared to ur competitors. This competitive edge is another advantage.
|▲ Artwork by artists at THISABLED|
What are your plans for THISABLED?
My objective is to open an actual space for our activities. I want to create a permanent exhibition space where the local residents can relax. If we get to sell coffee or other items, I want to hire people with developmental disabilities to work as the barista. I would also like to support curation by developmental disabilities.
THISABLED ultimately aims to achieve two things. First, we want to become a comprehensive art agency for the developmentally disabled, not only limited to paintings. Because people with developmental disabilities have a variety of talents, we want to encompass those different capabilities. Secondly, we want to spread agencies like us abroad. In the countries with lower awareness of developmental disabilities, we want to disseminate art agencies to help local artists.
For more information about THISABLED, visit their website at https://thisabled.co.kr.
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