Arts, Health & Wellbeing

Many of the arts projects I have managed and devised have focused on health outcomes. This ranges from projects with NHS partners to deliver health promotion work, projects that focus on addressing stigma around mental messages and engagement work that uses an arts approach as a way of encouraging connection and starting conversations. 

Since 2009 I have developed numerous projects that use the five ways to wellbeing (see below) as a tool to start conversations about mental health. More recent projects have focused the benefits of nature connection to health and wellbeing. I am currently working on developing evaluation methods to gather evidence of the contribution of nature based arts activity to mental wellbeing. 

Feeling Good Project – for Walsall Creative Development Team, 2008-2011 

I programmed the arts element of a three year  big lottery  funded programme of arts, sports and cookery to improve wellbeing, specifically focusing on the South Asian community in the town. This included commissioning arts company The Cultural Sisters to deliver creative workshops with young people and develop a  set  of  educational  resources  based  on the evidence based,  ‘Five  Ways  to Wellbeing’. The  project  won  the  Public  Health  Award  in  the  2012  West  Midlands  Arts  and  Health Awards, administered by Creative Health.

The Wellbeing Mandala – with The Cultural Sisters, 2009-2011

As part of the Feeling Good project The Cultural Sisters developed a tool to facilitate discussion around mental health and wellbeing with young people. They had already used the format of a mandala for creative pattern making. A mandala is a circular pattern with religious and spiritual associations representing unity and wholeness as well as a symbol found in nature 

When using the Mandala in workshops with young people arts-workers found they have a calming influence, encouraging contemplation and focus. The groups were particularly enthusiastic about the working in this way. As a result of this, the idea was developed to link to the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Young women at the Aaina Centre and Bluecoat Academy worked with the Cultural Sisters to develop their own shapes and symbols to express things that they enjoyed doing using the ways to wellbeing as a framework for discussion. The participants then developed these prototype motifs were using erasers and lino cutting tools.

The Mandala Logo by Marie Sewell

A mandala has been used as the Boundary Way Project logo which was designed by Marie Sewell. Maria worked closely with the project team and spent time on site when developing her ideas. In collaboration we identified this symbol as one most suited to convey the ethos of our work. Marie created a series of colour schemes which are rotated seasonally on our online profile. 

“The motif I have developed consists of leaves and seeds around a central flower, representing growth and the natural environment. These are arranged in a mandala pattern, which represents both art and cycles found in nature.  The mandala is one of the most ancient symbols known to man, being found in rock carvings all over the world. Drawing a mandala forms a milestone in human development world-over as children become more controlled in their mark-making and they begin dividing circles into roughly equal part. As a pattern found in nature itself, the mandala speaks to us about cycles and seasons and is perfect for the Boundary Way Project. “  – Marie Sewell

The Falls Prevention Fashion Project – for Walsall Creative Development Team, 2004-5

I managed this project which was a partnership between Walsall’s Falls Prevention Programme led by the Primary Care Trust, and Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team in conjunction with Age UK and community groups. It’s aims were to raise awareness of the Falls Prevention Programme, challenge negative stereotypes around older age and promote positive images of health and independence. The outcomes were a series of textile sessions and a falls fashion show in the town centre, delivered by arts company The Cultural Sisters that engaged with people around stigma and preconceptions about ageing, falls prevention and accessing support. 

Walsall Arts and Health Steering Group – for Walsall Creative Development team, 2005-2011

I set up  and  chaired  a  monthly  multi agency steering  group  bringing  together  NHS,  Private and  voluntary  sector  partners  with  a  shared  goal  to use  creative  approaches  to highlight  mental  health  issues, challenge stigma  and  to  manage  and  disseminate  a  variety  of community  based  arts  projects.

Dawn of Hope  DVD – for Walsall Creative Development Team, 2007-11 

I  worked  with  a  team  of  psychiatrists at  Dorothy  Patterson Hospital  to make  a film  that  raised  awareness  of  depression  targeting  the  Urdu Community.  I  worked  with  Round  Midnight  Theatre  Company  and  Walsall  Primary Care  Trust  to research  and  develop  the  film.

Walsall Wellbeing Festival – for Walsall Creative Development Team, 2007-11

The wellbeing festival was a multi-agency event to celebrate World Mental Health Day and  signpost local services. It’s aims were, to break down barriers that may prevent people from accessing local services, to challenge stigma around mental health and to take a preventative approach to mental health and encourage people to look after their emotional wellbeing. It focused on promoting the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ evidence based approach towards building resilience and maintaining wellbeing. 

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