The store, called The Gallery by Art 4 Work, was opened in Portsmouth’s Arundel Street just in time for Christmas and is filled with creative designs and stocking fillers including festive cards, paintings, mugs and even furniture.
All of the stock has been lovingly created by a team of 40 students with learning difficulties at Highbury College who will also help price and package items and serve customers.
The shop, run as part of the College’s Foundation Prospects course, aims to showcase students’ talents while boosting their confidence and employability skills.
The course has held Christmas pop-up shops at the College’s Highbury Campus in Tudor Crescent for the last five years. Due to its success, the College was keen to open a permanent shop in the city centre.
The project is led by lecturers Sanjay Patel and Chris May.
Sanjay said: “I’m extremely proud of how hard the students have worked to bring this to fruition.
“It helps to shows how the students work in a professional way while showing off their skills and just how talented they are.
“I wanted to change the perspective of students with learning difficulties. I don’t want people to feel sorry for them. I wanted people to be able to see past their disabilities and realise their talents.
“The main thing about opening this shop is the students feel that they own the place. They love coming here.”
Student Gary Davies is part of the team running the shop and created some of the furniture.
The 26-year-old from Havant said: “When we were told that we were doing a shop I was a bit worried because I didn’t if I would be good with customers.
“I love everything about the shop. I think working here is fantastic. I’m very proud of it because we work as a team and we get along really well.”
Principal of Highbury College, Stella Mbubaegbu CBE said: “Staff and students have worked exceptionally hard to launch this fantastic shop.
“The Gallery is a spectacular showcase of our talented students’ work right in the heart of Portsmouth.
“It will provide a great work experience opportunity for these students as they sell their creations to shoppers and increase their employability skills.”
The shop will be open from 10.30am–2.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays during term time.
For more information call Highbury College on 023 9238 3131.
For further details on our Foundations Prospects course click here.