Here’s the second segment of Share Your Stories. I have the story of City Arts; an art-led therapy organization helping the most vulnerable within Nottinghamshire. Their work extends to young children, adolescents and adults who are all facing some struggles within their lives. I was mostly intrigued about the Arts on Prescription programme. A form of therapy which relies on the expression, universality and freeing experience of art. The therapy holds regular group sessions throughout Nottingham for those who have been referred to Arts on prescription. The group meetings are more for adolescents and above, involving workshops and activities led by creative people who have established their craft to lend a few skills: Activities range from pottery, textiles and photography.
I spoke to Joe, who answered the questions I asked in very clear detail with more passion and enthusiasm than an outsider looking in.
I’ll link their Facebook, twitter and website to be “Liked” and “Shared”.
AS: How do you think art, or the creative process be it any form, is effective?
J: We believe that the creative process is effective because it gives people an extra channel through which they can express their feelings, beliefs or ideas. This is particularly import for people who are marginalized or ignored e.g. people with mental health issues, the elderly, asylum seekers, children in care. The creative process can give anyone the tools for self-expression. For the people in these groups other avenues of expression are closed: they might struggle getting their ideas/feelings across when talking; if they can people might not listen to them. Creating art allows them to express themselves in a way that, we hope, other people in their community will pay attention to. It gives them a voice.
“I feel valued in attending the Arts on Prescription course and all this, I feel like the staff and the artists have all contributed to my recovery in some way. So, and, yeah, I think it’s good time I’ve invested.” (Nate)
It also happens that the people we work with have the least, or limited, access to art. There are lots of barriers: the art world feels elitist, creating art can be expensive and, even if you know what you’d like to express, you need to have some basic practical skills before you can effectively communicate it. We try to furnish the people who attend Arts on Prescription with some of these practical skills and then, in the process of creating art, they uncover latent skills (creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication). Discovering they’ve got bunch of skills they didn’t realize they had is brilliant for person’s self-worth and boosts their confidence. The programme is most effective when people leave us with both a means for expressing themselves and the confidence to do so.
One great example is a young person who attended our Express Yourself programme, which is like Arts on Prescription but for children & adolescents in Gedling. She’s made incredible progress; from being referred to the programme by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, to becoming a volunteer for the project and Arts Awards. She has gone from being withdrawn to standing up in her school assembly to speak about art, creativity and the Express Yourself programme. There’s a lovely quote from her here.
AS: Do you believe art is a freedom, and medium of comfort for somebody who is feeling quite chaotic to use?
J: Regarding freedom, at one of our team meetings someone brought up that Section 27 of the Declaration of Human Rights states everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts. There are lots of people who want to enjoy this right but, for a variety of reasons, don’t. City Arts enters every piece of work with the aim of helping people attain the freedom this right entitles them to. Mental Illness, disability, poverty etc. can act as barriers to this freedom and we are trying to remove the barriers.
Regarding art or the creative process providing comfort, I think probably true for a lot of people but perhaps not the most important effect it has on the life of someone feeling chaotic. There are a few things about our work, and the creative process in general that I think are important:
- I think that the creative process can be frustrating & difficult. Nevertheless it is often completely absorbing and therefore helps put other thoughts and worries out of people’s minds. It might only be for a couple of hours but it is welcome relief.
- The stuff about finding a means to express themselves, and the confidence too, that I mentioned in the previous answer. Also the feeling of achievement that creating something produces is good for self-esteem. (Side note: Projects running sports activities, or gardening, are also very effective at boosting confidence and self-esteem. New means of self-expression are what is very special about, and unique to, the arts, whether visual art, dance, music or whatever.)
- The way that we run arts sessions, in small groups, gives marginalized people an opportunity to socialize with people who have a common interest & similar life experiences. The works take place in a supportive and understanding environment. I think this is common to any project, like Arts on Prescription, seeking to engage people with mental health issues and improve their wellbeing.