INTERVIEW: BEAUTIFUL, SUSTAINABLE, TOGETHER: Down Syndrome initiative setting the example

In a social reality that for centuries has chosen to ignore and condemn people with Down syndrome to an invisible normality, talent, ingenuity and engagement with art come to change long-standing stereotypes. TAGMA 21 is an arts museum created by Peggy Loutou to champion and bring to the forefront the skills and artistic expression of people with Down syndrome. A project based on visibility and equal opportunities that give down syndrome individuals the opportunity to collaborate, present their work and leave their own footprint in a reality that until now has chosen to ignore them. 

What is TAGMA21 and how did it start? What exactly does the acronym TAGMA21 stand for?

TAGMA 21 – Trisomy 21 Autonomous World Museum of Arts was created to advocate for the moral and material empowerment of people with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) to develop their skills and support their artistic creation and expression through art by creating autonomous art projects.

How did the collaboration with people with Down’s syndrome come about? How important is visibility for people with Down’s syndrome and how can we achieve it?

In 2016 the Association of Antique Dealers and Art Dealers of Greece of which I am a member and President, started collaborating with museums and institutions to create thematic exhibitions that continue to this day. In this context, we also started a collaboration with the Margarita Vocational Training Centre which aims to educate and employ people with intellectual disability. Observing the students, I singled out a group of people with Down syndrome and created in my space Peggy Loutou – Artefacts of Value, in 2018 and 2020 three art projects and workshops in collaboration with this group. Thus, as a mature idea from 2016, the TAGMA 21 -Trisomy 21 Autonomous World Museum of Arts was created to bring together Higher Education Professors (who teach art and design in public universities), art theorists and artists with adult people with Down syndrome to create art projects that will be a means of developing their skills, creating common points of encounter and understanding of art.

Our goal is that over time, through the learning and guidance of their instructors, students will be able to coexist with awareness, consciousness, and confidence in contemporary art projects so that they can gain independent professional development. 

What change has TAGMA21 brought about in the way people view people with Down syndrome as a social group from your experience so far?

In 2022, WORLD HUMAN FORUM invited TAGMA 21 to participate in the 1st New European Bauhaus Festival in Greece by presenting an art&craft numbered creation entitled Beautiful, Sustainable, Together with the aim of offering it as a gift to the Festival speakers and European delegates. 

The 4 creators, George Doukoglou, Ioannis Stratigopoulos, Omar Hanna L Hadz and Angelos Bakas, visited the first interactive exhibition on climate change entitled “CLIMATE CHANGE AND US” held at the GAIA Centre of the Goulandris Natural History Museum. In collaboration with the visual artist-architect Alexandros Maganiotis and inspired by the three thematic pillars of the New European Bauhaus, Beautiful, Sustainable,together, they created a visual artwork, which was transferred to a handmade object using the technique of silk-screen printing.

All participants, visitors, organisers and generally those who received our creation appreciated the idea of the creators with Trisomy 21, understood their abilities through their specificity and admired their work as well as the speech of one of them (Ioannis Stratigopoulos). 

This project contributes not only to the development of their skills, but also to the understanding that people with Down’s syndrome contribute to the goals of the New European Bauhaus and set an example for all of us through TAGMA21. That is why the collector’s bags that were made for the main event of the NEB festival in Brussels were donated to Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

 How much does their activity in TAGMA21 affect their lives and their self-image?

Through the numerous projects and interacting with people with Trisomy 21, I find that when you respect them they consciously integrate into society, give their best for the implementation of the projects and really feel like integral members of society through their work and visibility. Their self-confidence is enhanced through their integration into the productive process.

What are your future plans for TAGMA21?

Observing the whole process of collaboration with people with Trisomy 21, we decided to increase the projects because we already have proposals of collaboration with other people with Trisomy 21, creating thematic modules around solidarity and culture.

Watch here a video about TAGMA21: