23 July 2018
Mental health service users celebrate culmination of community arts project with exhibition
A group of service users who receive treatment and support from
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) have
celebrated the culmination of their community arts project, a
twelve week artist guided course, with an exhibition of their
works. The course concluded with a public exhibition at Bath
Artist's Studios, as part of the Fringe Arts Bath Festival. The
donated work from the project is now proudly exhibited at AWP's
headquarters in Bath.
The focus of the Fresh Art @ project has been to provide
creative engagement for people affected by, or caring for those who
have experienced, mental health challenges, enlivening spaces
accessed by service users, carers and visitors at premises around
the Trust's various sites. The project was designed to create
opportunities within these spaces to engage individuals visually
whilst using the premises, as well as creating discussion between
service users, carers, clinical and non-clinical staff and
Fresh Art @ is a partnership project supported by AWP,
Creativity Works, The Holburne Museum, No1 Royal Crescent, The
American Museum in Britain and Virgin Care. The partnership works
to enable people with lived experience of mental health challenges
to create, explore, develop and grow through creativity and
contribute to community projects.
The partnership delivered sixteen artist guided sessions, the
first four within the context of an inpatient ward and twelve
further sessions delivered in the community within Bath museums. As
well as artistic guidance from the program leads, participants
could make use of the specialist knowledge available at each of the
sites, informing their practice and in some instances allowing
unprecedented tactile access to some exhibits.
The sessions promoted and empowered participants to live
happier, healthier lives by developing self-confidence through new
skills, engaging with new spaces such as museums that they
previously felt they were not welcomed in accessing, and working
divisively on a shared project.
Fresh Art @ worker, Tasha Beesley, said: "Fresh Art @ started in
2014, and was an idea initiated by nurses and service users on an
inpatient ward, this project has really demonstrated that
creativity can make a huge difference to the happiness, wellbeing
and confidence of the participants."
AWP Arts Psychotherapist, Sarah Parkinson, said: "I used to
think there was a linear movement between crisis, treatment and
social inclusion. But we're finding that offering people help in
getting involved in the local arts community as soon as possible
during their treatment may have added benefits in terms of the
service users' confidence and ability to make the best use of
treatment - especially art therapy."
She added: "I'm finding that if service users are engaged in the
arts community the impact of the art therapy sessions is more
effective, service users are more engaged and build confidence more
rapidly. The relationships between the therapy sessions and
community arts projects have a causal effect in terms of the
service users' self-confidence and want to engage."
As well as offering preventative support to those at risk of
social isolation, the partnership's project seeks to reduce the
number of repeat admissions to inpatient units, as well as
preventing first time admissions. The structure of the course
creates a journey for participants, a journey that leads into the
world of community arts and participation. Again, giving access to
a community that those without previous arts experience may have
felt they could not or did not have the credentials to be welcomed
Participants of the course remarked: "Being on the course has
helped bring new experiences to life, it has helped inspire and
involve those of us on the course to engage with the arts and
experiment when previously we hadn't had the chance due to work and
other life commitments."
Creative Works continues to develop opportunities with and for
participants with creative wellbeing courses across B&NES with
an opportunity to engage with the Victoria Art Gallery in the
Project artist, Barbara Disney, said: "The South West is at the
forefront of integrating the arts and mental health, with interest
internationally from organisations and individuals interested in
setting up similar schemes, which is really exciting.
"Next April the Holburne Museum in Bath will be holding a
symposium on mental health and the arts, and making art for
physical and mental health."
A new project with the Victoria Art Gallery in the autumn will
generate more art works which will contribute to AWP's collection,
and will be rotated throughout the Trust's sites giving service
users, staff and visitors an engaging and evolving space to be