Art Fair raises £1,130 for arts therapy project

Posted: 06/02/20

A door opening onto a room full of artworks on easels; the door is in focus, but the rest of the room is blurry.

An Art Fair displaying work by patients from mental health and learning disability services has raised over £1,000 for an arts therapy project.

The Fair was organised by the Arts Project at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (CNTW) NHS Foundation Trust, a provider of mental health and disability services in the North of England. All the artworks were created by patients and staff from secure mental health and learning disability services at Bamburgh Clinic in Newcastle and Northgate Hospital in Northumberland, both run by CNTW.

Through the Arts Project, weekly art sessions are tailored to each person’s needs following a referral to this specialist team by their Occupational Therapist. The project can often play a vital role in peoples’ recovery.

The Arts Project had acquired a huge archive of work created over the years, so the team held an Art Fair earlier this week to showcase some of the work to the public. All the artworks were for sale, with all proceeds invested back into the project.

We were bowled over by the success of the two-day Art Fair and the overwhelming positive response. We had such a range of visitors, and so many people had personal responses to the artwork and stories to tell; it was moving and wonderful. Everyone, from porters to doctors, carers and members of the public, even a graphic designer, visited and bought work to take home and display.

The strength of the artwork made by patients in our Arts Project workshops spoke for itself – in fact it sang to the rafters! Finally on display, the exhibition was an exuberant riot of colour, variety and expression.

We are now planning to make the Fair an annual event!

Jane Akhurst and Eric Rothwell, who run the Arts Project

The Fair was very well-attended, and visitors left many glowing comments. One person described it as “a wonderful selection of work with such beautiful stories.” Others praised the “thought and skill” on display. One visitor summed it up by commenting: “What a wonderful exhibition of the transformational power of art.”

One piece, a print made with feathers, was brought by an art student for whom feathers had a particular significance. They reminded her of her own friend’s struggle with mental health, and she was pleased to find such a meaningful piece that she could buy and support the project. Other pieces have found homes in other parts of the Trust, including the chapel at St Nicholas Hospital where the chaplaincy team hope it will be a useful focus of contemplation for visitors.

There is lots of evidence that creating art can help people feel more socially included and improve their self-esteem and confidence, as they are encouraged to recognise their achievements and take pride in sharing them with others. In the Arts Project, patients come together in less clinical surroundings to explore their creativity in a cheering and friendly space surrounded by many colourful and interesting works of art.

Sales of the artworks raised £1,130 in total. All of these proceeds will go towards buying new materials for the Arts Project so that people can experiment and express themselves as part of their recovery journey.

Learn more about the Arts Project here.