27 July 2010

Art therapies get young carers 'seeing things differently'

An outdoor art gallery was the result when AWP staff worked with the Communities Art Therapies (CAT) Project to run three art therapy workshops for young carers.

CAT Project organised the workshops with the Victoria Art Gallery and Holburne Museum in Bath to run alongside an exhibition by artist Edwina Bridgeman, a former theatre designer known for her use of recycled materials.

The workshops were facilitated by Kerrigan Fletcher-Bartholomew, an AWP art psychotherapist who also works with Steps Eating Disorder Unit in Bristol and with older adults.

Kerrigan describes the experience of working with the group:

"I was really excited to be asked to run the CAT art groups with the young carers as this is the age group I feel more creative in my approach with. We met in Bath's Victoria Gallery one Saturday morning to view the Edwina Bridgeman sculpture exhibition. We spent an hour wandering around and were so inspired by the use of found objects being used in a different way in the sculptures that that this became the theme of our project: Seeing Things Differently.

"After an hour we went to the art rooms above the gallery and chatted about this experience and began forming ideas onto paper which then turned into the beginnings of three dimensional images. The atmosphere I felt was very relaxed and mature for such young kids. I began to feel that this group was beginning to connect and feel contained with each other and the staff. They also began to talk about themselves a little bit and share with each other what their lives were about which gave new meaning to their work.

"Our next two meetings were in the Gardener's Lodge in the grounds of Holburne Museum. The group talked about themselves but their conversation was also supportive and nurturing. They engaged in the art making process individually and also working with each other on joint projects. At the first session we had decided to emulate the Bridgeman exhibition by making our own gallery exhibition for the public to see as our final showcase. We had no preconceived ideas about what it might look like but we talked about a 'travelling exhibition' set up in the park for people to wander round.

One of the young carers suggested we set up the space right in front of the Gardener's Lodge and attract people wandering through the park. I had initially had the idea of a more secluded spot as I think I was feeling over protective of their work but I embraced the idea and we set up two strips of bunting just outside the front door. Next we put the images onto card to display them and then set about turning our improvised lawn into our gallery space. It was incredibly rewarding seeing a few 'art lovers' walking around  the images and commenting on what they saw, but not quite as rewarding as the proud smiles on some of the young carers' faces. I think they got something out of this experience that was far greater than words. I know I did."

For more information about CAT project click here.

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