This week we follow up with part two of our blog talking to AOH venues who offer support to ‘outsider’ artists; these may be artists with learning disabilities, mental health issues, those who have experienced period of homelessness or are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
This week we talked to Beth Shepherd from Preston Park Recovery Centre (PPRC) in the Beyond The Level trail, and to Emma and Maxine plus exhibiting artists from Montefiore Artists (MA) in the Seven Dials trail.
AOH: How important it is for artists in your centre to be offered opportunities to engage with and to express their creativity?
MA: Artists’ comments:
‘It’s very important. It shows people what we as artists can do. If people didn’t visit, they wouldn’t know what we were able to do. It’s good to learn something and this is a place to learn.’
‘We are happy when we are making art’
Art is a universal form of expression and communication that is open to everyone. It provides a platform for our artists with learning disabilities to communicate, without barriers.
PPRC: It is incredibly important to the artists involved.
The therapeutic value of art is well recognized as being positive for mental health recovery and people often report on its great impact on their lives. We often hear our exhibiting artists describe the process of creating their art as a welcome break from the stresses of daily life.
We offer five creative groups a week within our timetable of activities. These groups are always very well attended and support people to share their ideas and skills, and to build on their hobbies, which can be sustained outside of services. Often informal peer support happens through these groups, which increases people’s social contact and their support networks.
AOH: What does it means to your artists to have their work seen by and to interact with the AOH festival audience?
MA: Artist comment:
‘It makes us feel very happy and we are pleased to see people looking at our work with beaming faces.’
Our artists want to be part of their communities, doing things they want to do. The AOH festival is an opportunity for them to feel valued and is a great way for them to show and sell their work.
PPRC: Exhibiting work publicly for the AOH Festival is hugely empowering for our artists, some of whom have felt isolated and disenfranchised throughout their lives. It is great for our artists to gain positive feedback from members of the public, their friends and family, and being part of the exhibition gives them a real sense of pride and dignity. This year more than ever before, our clients have enthusiastically volunteered to be gallery attendants – enjoying the reactions of visitors to the art work on display. For some, this has provided them with a valuable opportunity to experiment with being in social situations they might usually find tricky, but in a safe and supportive environment.
AOH: Are there any specific developments or outcomes you are hoping for as a result of taking part in the AOH festival this year?
MA: We want to continue to build on our artists’ professional development, both individually and collectively.
PPRC: Taking part in the AOH Festival reduces the stigma and fear that surrounds mental health challenges by enabling us to invite members of the public into a mental health recovery centre. It gives a platform to artists to show their fantastic work, which increases their confidence and self-esteem and gives a sense of purpose and shared goals. The artists feel engaged with the process of planning and implementing the exhibition, which in turn supports the learning of new skills. For example, how to present work and how to frame work.
AOH: Montefiore Artists – last year you won the Best Open House Award. What did winning the award mean to you and your artists?
MA: Artist comment:
‘We all worked together and that’s why things got done nicely.’
After contributing to the Artists Open Houses for over 10 years, it has really validated our artists’ contribution to the Brighton & Hove art community and beyond, bringing them recognition and putting them on a level playing field. It has also given us visibility as a charity and hopefully given people a better understanding of our work.
AOH: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
PPRC: We have found being part of the Beyond the Level trail very supportive and encouraging. The other trail members genuinely recognise and support what we are trying to do.
MA: We would like to reach a wider audience both for our Montefiore Artists in Montefiore Road where we have our May Open House, and our Grace Eyre Art Studio at Unit 2 in Brighton’s Open Market, where our Grace Eyre artists have collaboratively exhibited alongside local artists and where we have rolling exhibitions throughout the year. We also want to mention our little gem of a theatre – Purple Playhouse – based at Montefiore Road which has had sell out shows during the Brighton Fringe. If you’d like more information on how you can get involved with Grace Eyre, please visit our website www.grace-eyre.org, or please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in collaborative or partnership working. We look forward to hearing from you!
AOH: Thank you for talking to us. We hope you have a wonderful last weekend of the festival.