The Studio Residents Connecting Arts and Wellbeing
“To create a healthy, happy, meaningful life for everyone, we have to recognise the power of artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries in healthcare and beyond.” – Darren Henly, Arts Council England
The intersection between arts, and health and wellbeing, is a rapidly growing industry; The positive impact that engaging with creativity has on our wellbeing is being championed. The Arts for Health and Wellbeing Report from the All-party Parliamentary Group pinpointed various areas in which this holistic approach to wellbeing can help:
- The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives, better lived.
- The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness, and mental health.
- The arts can help save money in the health service and social care.
In this context, “the arts” can qualify as anything from visual arts, performance art, literature, and beyond. From a 37% reduction in GP visits to a 68% improvement in mental health symptoms, the research says art on prescription works. Tuning into ourselves, connecting with other people in community groups, and finding a safe space in which to express ourselves, all aid in leading a healthier and more fulfilled life.
Many professionals working within the creative industries have been shifting their practice and business focus in response to the growing population of people turning to creativity in such tumultuous times. Our Residents at The Studio are no exception; here are just a few examples of the socially-engaged work our wonderful practitioners engage in.
Creativity Works is a socially engaged arts organisation located in Radstock, near Bath. Creativity Works uses the power of the creative process to make a real difference to people’s lives, inspiring and empowering them to explore, develop, and grow. Their aim is to draw communities together and enable more people to access the arts, whilst supporting artists in this approach. Their main focuses include running creative activities and courses suitable for those living with mental health challenges or facing difficulties in their lives. They also support and develop the work of artists and socially engaged practitioners through their Co/Create programme.
Phillipa Forsey, current Creative Wellbeing manager, discovered art as therapy when recovering from a head injury, “I saw the first-hand impact of what it is like to one day be fine and the next have the rug pulled from underneath you and to feel at sea, and how art can give you an anchor.” As Creative Wellbeing manager, Phillipa sees people pass through their various art therapy groups experiencing similar challenges she faced. “Often when people come to us they are feeling very unconfident, have low self-esteem and are isolated. My goal is to help people see that creativity is inside them, and give them agency and feel valued within a group setting.”
Whilst art can be used as a tool in therapy, Creativity Works is very clear in stating that the services they offer are not therapy. First and foremost, they offer community art groups, with a side effect and focus on increased wellbeing. Philippa highlights the distinction, focusing on the ways in which they keep participants safe. “We do hire therapists for some things, but we are not here to therapize. Our process is about group and social engagement. When someone is in a group and then soothing conversations start out of the creativity they are participating in, that brings about beautiful friendships and connections that are so important to people’s wellbeing – it helps them feel a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Creativity Works’ groups focus on the idea of embracing the process. Phillipa tries as much as possible to encourage the playful approach to creativity. “The other thing about creativity is that it is really inclusive. You don’t have to be the best or the neatest of the anything, you can just be who you are. It can be easy when focusing on mental wellness to slip into a serious attitude, but Creativity Works re-ignites this sense of fun that some of us lose once we age out of childhood. Creating spaces that allow us to reconnect with our innocent and curious selves in a low-pressure and inclusive environment give us a gentle nudge on our way in learning how to care for our wellbeing.”
Sooothe creates sensory textile products designed to comfort and engage people. Founder Annie Lywood, a specialist in textile and human-centred design, has a life-long passion for sensory learning. She worked for many years as a teacher, after which she retrained in interactive/digital textile design with her efforts focused on improving the wellbeing of vulnerable groups within society.
Sooothe’s vision is to create sensory experiences that soothe the body and calm the mind. Research like the ‘Touch Test’ from BBC Radio 4, shows that touch is central to our wellbeing. Projects like these highlight the underrated value of touch in our everyday lives. People who are touched more regularly have decreased anxiety and stress, and where human contact is not possible, people seek the comfort of objects.
Working with a like-minded team of professional occupational therapists and talented artisans, Sooothe is on a continuous and very exciting journey researching the benefits of texture, colour, shape, pattern, weight, and ‘the cuddle factor’ in order to help soothe the senses. Sooothe will soon be launching a ‘comfort collection’ – fun and colourful comforters for adults that engage the senses to calm and uplift. They are also undertaking research with Bristol University into connecting people via a breathing cushion.
This cutting-edge research, more relevant now than ever before, seeks to use art and creativity as medicine for our bodies and minds.
House of Imagination
House of Imagination provides a range of spaces for children and young people to collaborate with creative professionals. It is a home for improvisation, creativity, and innovation. House of Imagination’s patron, Sir Ken Robinson, devoted his life to the importance of creativity and imagination. He advocated for schools to treat creativity with the same status as literacy.
Within House of Imagination sits The Forest of Imagination – an annual participatory contemporary arts and architecture event that’s free and open to all, with a creative learning programme delivered by local artists. People come together to explore their community, inviting a conversation about the importance of nature and imagination in all our lives.
Forest and House of Imagination’s director, Penny Hay recognises the value of the arts within schools. “Engagement with the arts, creativity, and culture plays a crucial role in the development of our emotional intelligence and imagination. They are vital ingredients in the wellbeing of children and adults alike, but we need to protect the special place the arts have in children’s lives.”
Forest of Imagination offers an immersive experience that is inspired by nature and encourages adults and children to enjoy their own imagination and creativity. Penny continues “It is a showcase for Bath as a creative ecosystem, with a focus on innovation and artistic exploration.”
Of course, this isn’t to say that creativity can fix all. If we have learned anything in recent times, it is that collaboration holds the key to success. All hands on deck – we need the doctors and the dancers, the counsellors and the creators, the medicine and the makers.
Find out more about our Residents’ work here.