An inspiring exhibition of art and craft work by residents of care homes in Wellington and Devon opened today at Tonedale Business Park. The oldest resident of Popham Court, 102 year old Ruby, cut the ribbon to launch the exhibition, together with Mayor of Taunton Deane, Councillor Vivienne Stock-Williams.
The exhibition which is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 March from 10am to 4pm showcases the creative outcomes of a two-year project, Handmade Wellbeing, in which professional artists have worked with residents of care homes. The artists and many of the residents whose work is on display were present at the launch.
Handmade Wellbeing is an EU Erasmus+ project with international partners in University of Helsinki, Finland, University of Tartu, Estonia and Karl-Franzens University Graz, Austria. Each partner has run a series of art and craft sessions in local care homes with training and work experience offered to professional artists to run creative activities for residents. In Wellington, artwork ranging from 3D pictures to pottery hand prints has been created by residents of Popham Court, Camelot House and Chelston Park.
The project is managed by Janine Steadman. In a preview to the exhibition she said, “People are being invited out of their care homes to see their work exhibited and realise they are contributing substantially to society. Sometimes they have fine motor skills which people think have gone. At the centre of everything that is Handmade Wellbeing is the Resident and their friends and family. Working closely with our artists, we’ve had some wonderful feedback from family and staff and it’s been such a worthwhile experience. We are very proud of the work that has been created and can’t wait for Wellington residents to come along and see the exhibition for themselves.”
The project is supported by Wellington-based organisation Superact which helps people gain access to arts-based projects and initiatives that deliver awareness, principally within the healthcare, education and criminal justice systems. Handmade Wellbeing is one of “about 20” projects that Superact Creative Director Ali Smith is currently working on, not only in the UK but around Europe. The projects attract, coordinate and train artists, musicians and story-tellers to work with individuals in a range of settings to generate a range of creative, beneficial and therapeutic outcomes.
Ali Smith, Creative Director of Superact said, “Handmade Wellbeing is a local, regional and an international community project. Working with our European partners has offered us the opportunity to share methodologies and to explore different approaches to engagement in local care settings across Europe. This sharing of ideas can only offer greater scope and depth to our ongoing activities.”
Jon Lincoln-Gordon, a local professional artist and founder of ArtTree, a collective of independent artists and teachers, has been working with Superact as Lead Artist on the Handmade Wellbeing activity sessions.
Commenting on the project, Jon said, “It’s been such a lovely experience, creating bespoke activities, taking them into local care settings and seeing residents become involved and engaged over the sessions. For me, all the artistic inspiration from meeting project partners and learning about our different cultures has contributed residents’ activities, bringing everything together.”
Clare Woodhead, Operations Manager at Camelot House, commented, “Enabling people to live well with dementia is all about creating opportunities to rediscover hidden talents or discover new interests. Collaborating with the Handmade Wellbeing project has allowed our residents to work with clay, many for the first time, with that all-important individual self-expression, something that said ‘This is a little bit of me and this is what I have achieved today.’”
Superact’s funding is predominantly from the EU through Erasmus+. Asked to project the likely effect of Brexit on the projects it supports and generates, Ali said, “Contingencies are in place to replace the funding but it unlikely to be maintained at the same level.”
This exhibition draws important attention to the creative and personal outcomes resulting from collaborations between artists, musicians and writers with residents of care homes, some of whom suffer from dementia. It will be followed by a conference on Thursday 23 March with speakers from the University of Helsinki, Court House Residential Home and from the Director of Arts and Health South West, Alex Coulter.