What are the aims of the exhibition:
We would like to show our appreciation and support for care workers and residents in care homes who participated in this project.
The exhibition is a chance to share the artwork with family, friends, and the wider public. ArtTherapy4all celebrates all their contributions to the Beyond Words art therapy project via our digital art gallery.
View the online gallery here.
The Beyond Words project:
The Beyond Words project aims to support, stimulate, and enhance the lives of older people and to reduce social isolation by providing a safe space for residents to meet and create art. In 2019/20 art therapy was introduced to 10 new care homes across London as part of the project, now in its 4th year. Working in close collaboration with staff in care homes, experienced art therapists facilitated weekly art therapy groups with the help of volunteers for up to 30 weeks of subsidised art therapy.
Why art therapy?
Cate, one of the directors of Arttherapy4all, who manages this funded project explains the
rationale and science behind it. “Art therapy can help care home residents because it supports self-expression, mental health and emotional wellbeing. It is not dependent on spoken language, therefore can significantly benefit those with impairments to verbal communication by enabling non-verbal expression.
Latest neurological research indicates that creative processes can reinforce synaptic functioning, which could help to prevent or slow down deterioration. Art therapy can help
people to cope with confusion, anxiety and depression, and to adjust to physical and cognitive changes.”
Creative expression through art
The Beyond Words project offers people with dementia the chance to develop new skills and interests, thus regaining a sense of control, self-esteem and independence. During sessions, participants were able to safely try out a variety of art materials such as pencil, charcoal, watercolour paint, fabric and paper collage and clay. People often developed their own unique style and language with a preferred choice of medium.
Some people in the groups chose to create art from their imagination and others looked at replica art works to base their pieces on. To maximise choice and accessibility, equipment and materials were carefully tailored to people’s needs such as by providing long handled brushes or bold coloured paints for visibility. Residents commented on the freedom in the group to do their own thing with the therapist’s support.
Why an online exhibition?
Due to COVID 19 restrictions, plans for our final exhibition in an art gallery had to be postponed. Instead, we created a digital exhibition of art-work, to boost morale and keep in contact while not being allowed on-site. This development was warmly welcomed by care staff who fed back that the residents enjoyed viewing their art in this format.
Curating the exhibition
For many residents, having their artwork featured in a gallery can be a source of pride and reminder of positive memories of their time in the groups. Choosing the works for the on-line gallery was with informed consent and decisions based on whether people could benefit from their work being on public view, with great care taken not to expose difficult content. Each artwork holds a personal meaning, story or connection for the maker, and pieces can express difficult feelings as well as positive ones. Where possible we included quotations to convey how the work was created and bring to life the context and meaning of each piece. Making art can also be a powerful way for group members to communicate with each other. Pieces have also been chosen to show this and the echoes of colours, shapes and patterns between different group member’s art. Putting together this film facilitated a therapeutic ‘holding in mind’ and thinking about the group.
Outcomes of the project: What participants and their relatives told us
Feedback from staff and residents at the care homes was that they found the therapists supportive and the groups beneficial for improving wellbeing, building self-esteem and enabling self-expression.
Some of the key findings from the evaluation process were:
• Strengthened relationships in care homes: New friendships were made that also continued outside the group in the centre. Residents described their group as a family.
• Increased opportunities for emotional wellbeing: Many people appreciated the quiet space and the increased focus and relaxation from making art. Transition into residential care can be unsettling and feedback from relatives suggested that attending the group helped considerably with this.
• Increased feelings of self-worth: Participants discovered new talents. Group members regularly gave positive feedback to each other and showed appreciation of other people’s art. Group members were openly proud of what they had created. Relatives were clearly uplifted to hear about their loved one’s new-found interest in art.
We invite you to visit our on-line gallery, particularly care homes perhaps considering introducing art therapy in the future or art therapists looking for opportunities to practice in this area.
Arttherapy4all CIC is committed to educating people about the benefits of art therapy.