Words by: Ian Judson Picture: Arts & Minds
Art exhibition celebrates the role of art and community in mental wellbeing.
Creating Togetherness, a special exhibition featuring the artistic work and creative projects of over 30 people from Arts and Minds, a creative and wellbeing group, will take place from 13 March to 3 April in West Studios, part of Chesterfield College, on Sheffield Road.
Arts and Minds is the brainchild of two inspirational people who found a connection with each other through art during their own battle with mental ill health. Ian Judson and Barry Thompson both realised the positive impact using their creativity was having on their own wellbeing and decided to offer the same opportunities to other people in the community.
Several years later the project has grown into a real lifeline for people from all walks of life. The exhibition is a celebration of everything the Arts and Minds groups in Killamarsh and Chesterfield achieve through connecting people. It will showcase how members of the group channel their creativity using a variety of media from paint to chocolate and everything in between.
Ian studied an Art Foundation course at Chesterfield College during his time as a mental health patient at Chesterfield Royal Hospital 20 years ago after staff realised creating art had a positive effect on his mood and that he had a real talent for the subject.
Ian said: “It is fantastic to be able to hold this exhibition in the place which was a key part of helping with my recovery when I was at rock bottom. Studying here was part of my journey. Coming to college for 2 years helped me to develop skills which I can now share with others. This exhibition is so important to highlight the impact of being one voice and working together. I came out of the health system through art and now I am helping others who are in the system through art.
When we set the group up we didn’t realise there was so much social isolation and loneliness. Everyone in the group is supporting each other. We share the same stories. We share the same happiness, we share the same tears, and it is working.”
Barry explained how and why the group has developed over the years. He said: “I personally never set out to help people with mental health or for it to develop and grow in the way that it has. It has just evolved. I just wanted to create a place where people could come and feel comfortable, be creative and not feel like they had mental health problems or be judged. I didn’t want anyone to feel different and I think we have achieved that and that is why it works. It has now come to a point where what we are doing isn’t just word of mouth in the community, we are getting referrals from health services and the Mental Health Trust because the professionals can see the value in it too.”
“I’ve always enjoyed creating art in various forms but after leaving school I didn’t really do much of it until I had my breakdown. I was advised to find a hobby as part of my recovery so I started writing poetry, drawing and photography. My approach is to have a go at anything and that is what we try to encourage the people in the groups to do.”
Talking about the exhibition, Ian said: “You’ll see art work that will blow you away at this exhibition; there’ll be everything from knitting to cake decorating and painting to wire sculptures. Some of the pieces are made by people who have never done any art before coming to the group and others are created by people using their artistic skills to channel their emotions. One lady whose work will be in the exhibition credits the work she is doing for literally saving their lives.”
Members of the public are invited to view the exhibition at a special event on Saturday 28 March from 10am until 1pm when all of the exhibition rooms in West Studios can be accessed freely. Anyone wishing to view the exhibition during other times from 13 March to 3 April is asked to call 01246 500799 before visiting.