Mark Pearson, who has a learning disability and is supported by Mencap, the UK’s learning disability charity, is one of 500 entries throughout the UK to be chosen for a ground-breaking and inclusive art exhibition at Sotheby’s auction house.

‘Humanity: The Outside In National Exhibition’ is taking place at Sotheby’s London showroom this month, before touring to Glasgow and Brighton later this year. It is the sixth national exhibition by Outside In, an arts charity which gives a platform to artists who face ‘significant barriers’ in the art world.

Mark, 57, is one of 80 artists selected by the panel for the London exhibition, which runs from the 9th to 27th January 2023. A keen artist, Mark has been painting for over eight years, and his talent flourished when he started attending The Community Art Project – an art scheme run by Darlington Council for adults with a learning disability.

Mark’s painting, ‘Friendly Face’, was produced while attending The Community Art Project, which Mencap supported him in finding. His artwork includes watercolours, prints and hand-painted cards, and ‘Outside In’ marks the first time his work has been displayed at a national gallery or exhibition.

This week, Mark, who lives in Darlington in a Mencap supported living service, also travelled to London with his family to attend a prestigious event to celebrate the exhibition.

Talking about his artwork being shown at the ‘Humanity: The Outside In National Exhibition’, Mark Pearson says: “I really enjoyed my trip to London and visiting Sotheby’s with my family. I feel proud seeing my artwork on display.

“Doing art makes me feel relaxed and very happy. I always look forward to attending the art classes supported by Mencap, where I have met new friends and improved my creative skills.

“I’m looking forward to creating more paintings and drawings to share with my family and friends!”

Yvonne Rogers, Service Manager at Mencap, says: “We are delighted that Mark is having his work shown at Sotheby’s.

“We supported Mark to find The Community Art Project when we recognised his interest in arts and crafts. Mark enjoys attending and brings back all of his work and always has lots of stories to share!

“We are so proud of what Mark has achieved and so pleased for him. Art has given him an outlet and an opportunity for him to be part of something he really enjoys.”

Philip Pearson, Mark’s brother, says: “Mark loves his visits to The Community Art Project, where the team have supported him to embrace his love for arts and crafts and encouraged him to express his feelings through his work.

“As a family, we would like to thank Mencap for their continued support and being fundamental in Mark’s ongoing health and wellbeing, essentially throughout the whole of Mark’s life.

“Our heartfelt thank you to the amazing team at Mark’s supported living service who show Mark so much love and attention every single day!”

Outside In was established in 2006 to assist artists facing barriers due to health, disability, social circumstance and isolation. Shortlisted works in the exhibition will be judged by leading British artist Bob and Roberta Smith (also known as Patrick Brill OBE), following in the footsteps of previous judges including Grayson Perry and Cathie Pilkington. The winning artist will have their own solo exhibition in 2024.

There are around 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and they face huge inequalities everyday of their lives. They are more likely to be socially isolated, nearly twice as likely to be inactive and die on average over two decades earlier compared to those without a learning disability. Mencap want to change this, supporting people to lead happy and healthy lives, campaigning tirelessly for their rights and fighting stigma and discrimination.