Project Onward's perspective of Outsider Art

By its very nature, Outsider art can be elusive and controversial. Hence, the definition of Outsider art is often the subject of passionate debates. The term refers to works by self-taught artists, and those artists with little or no contact with institutional forms of art. Outsider art is a form of expression that exists outside the realm of “fine art,” or outside the boundaries of conventional culture. The artwork tends to focus on delivering a straightforward message, which can convey a radically different worldview.


The phrase “Outsider art” was first used in 1972, by the art critic Roger Cardinal. It is the English equivalent of the French term “art brut” coined by French painter and assemblage artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) to describe the art’s similarities to primitive art. Although Outsider art is work outside the norm, all unconventional art does not fall within this category. Outsider art and Visionary art, for example, have a very close relationship—artists in these genres both create work out of necessity and compulsion.


Outsider artists at Project Onward are spontaneous, intuitive, and expressive. At times, the artists and their works seem to coexist in the inner regions of their minds. Our studio stands with them to support their artistic visions, and their need to push creative boundaries.


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Don't miss our show, Outsider Connections. Inspired by the work of various artists in this genre, Project Onward artists look to question (if not always answer) and challenge what the next step in Outsider art will be moving forward.

"Outsider Artists" by Project Onward artist Adam Hines


Project Onward is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to promote art as a powerful tool for understanding and valuing the real and potential contributions of our national population with disabilities.

©2020 by Project Onward

Bridgeport Art Center

1200 W. 35th St., 4th Floor

Chicago, IL 60609

(773) 940-2992