A new art exhibition of work by people with lived experience of eating disorders is opening in the Brunel building at Southmead Hospital. The artists are service users from the STEPS (Specialised Treatment for Eating Disorders) service run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust.
The exhibition is the result of six weeks of arts sessions in the hospital's community arts room facilitated by local artist Rachel Davis, with patients from the STEPS programme. It is one of several pilot projects informing the design of the Fresh Arts on Referral programme, being launched in autumn 2017.
Over the six weeks, the group has developed their arts skills to create new artwork for this exhibition in Fresh Arts’ schools and community gallery in the Brunel building. This exhibition presents the group with a unique opportunity to exhibit their art for the first time and to show the world the whole person beyond their mental health condition:
“It’s so great how making art helps you escape from your head for a while… I would just keep making all afternoon if I could.”
The six week project has enabled service users from STEPS who experience mental health conditions to have a space in which they can leave behind their worries and be creative:
“I’m really enjoying the sessions, I like that you don’t know what my work’s about or any of my issues, I’m free to just make and explore what I want.”
One of the aims of the project has been to support service users in self-management of their condition by equipping them with practical creative skills, building their confidence in using art to support their own health and wellbeing and give support and encouragement in a safe and welcoming group environment. One service user commented:
“I suffer from OCD and anxiety and the two hours a week I spent in the studio felt like it stilled my mind and I could really focus on producing art.”
Rachel Davis is a Bristol-based artist with extensive experience of engaging a wide range of people from children in local schools to frail elderly patients at our hospital in the life-changing possibilities of art:
“Art unites us all – these service users might think that people don’t understand what they’re going through but art is a bridge to sharing experience and creating areas of common interest. And in just six weeks, this group has created images that can tell the story they can’t say out loud.”
Fresh Arts is the arts programme managed by North Bristol NHS Trust which aims to improve the patient experience through hands-on art workshops as well as to enhance the clinical environment with beautiful artwork. For further information visit: www.fresharts.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gate 36, Brunel building