A room at Tenants Hall in Middleton has been turned into an art gallery thanks to the work of local people attending support groups run by Health For All.
I went along to the see the exhibition and speak to some of those involved in the project.
Jill Scanlon is a community based mental health worker who supports a number of support groups locally. She invited local artist Sue Bowden to work with the Be Yourself women’s group at Middleton Family Centre.
“We started by mind mapping what they like, what they’ve missed during Covid, what makes them tick. and they produced these lovely works of art that are really personal to themselves” said Jill.
The artworks draw on the work of Maria Rivans, a Brighton-based artist, who had created a collage of herself featuring images that represented her influences. Jill and Sue invited the members of the group to create their own collage. Jill continues:
“We had people that said to begin with they had nothing at all to put on a picture, nothing positive, and then they went away and thought about it; and as the weeks went on they started thinking ‘well, yeah, I have got this and I used to do that’. People who said they weren’t the slightest bit creative have come up with the most amazing ideas.
“But it’s also about the conversations that we have in between the making.”
Leslie, who attends the Blossom kinship carers group, explained that her collage was based on her love of holidays. It includes images of exotic destinations, but also of birds that migrate to sunnier climes. And agreed with Jill saying:
“It’s very therapeutic to do things like this because it takes your mind off the everyday worries.”
As well as Blossom, Jill has taken the project to the Teen Spirit and Men Behaving Dadly groups.
Artist Sue Bowden told me:
“During lockdown everyone’s kind of lost track of what makes them tick. The aim of the project was to remind people of who they are: where they love going and what they love doing. I think it’s really important for their self-esteem to have their work on display. They also keep a copy to give themselves a visual reminder of what makes them tick.”
Sue’s also adapted the concept for the Inspiring Futures group at Beeston Village Community Centre. The group of local teenagers with Chinese, eastern European and Asian heritage were working with the Violence Reduction Unit and used collage to express what’s going on in their heads when they think about local knife crime. One piece won third place in an art exhibition and was exhibited at the Royal Armouries.
Speaking to the assembled artists, Pat McGeever, Health For All’s CEO said:
“The designs are so high quality that you’d be hard pressed to know that they weren’t created by professional artists. They’re gobsmacking, absolutely beautiful, the creativity that’s gone into them and I can just imagine the good chats that you had whilst you were choosing what to put in. We would love to keep the display here. You should all be very proud of yourselves.”
The art workshops and activities of the groups were part of Live Well Leeds, Healthy Holidays and Violence Reduction Unit projects during summer 2021 and the Christmas period. The exhibition event was funded by Live Well Leeds.
Photo: Artists and their work at the exhibition in Middleton