Monday, 16 September 2013

Art Workshops at Sunnyside Court

Outreach Manager for Art in Healthcare, Amelia Calvert, discusses a recent success of the outreach programme in a sheltered housing complex. 

 July and August saw the start of Art in Healthcare’s 2013/14 outreach programme, building on what went before with ‘Art from Art’ (see blog entry, This involved a five-week long series of art workshops at the sheltered housing complex, Sunnyside Court, part of Hanover Housing Association, in Morningside, culminating in an exhibition in the complex of all the artworks that had been created during the programme.
Some of the residents and artist, Emily Learmont (third from right) at the final exhibition
While the exhibition itself was clearly a hub of merriment, excitement and proud artists showing their works, it was the workshops themselves with the quiet, contented and diligent concentration of every participant that was the most memorable about this programme.
The workshops were facilitated by artist, Emily Learmont, who had run art workshops for AiH in the past, along with the help of a couple of AiH volunteers. Emily commented at the end that it was “a memorable experience” and that everyone was “hugging me goodbye!” Clearly she had had a great effect on the group with her gentle teaching manner and skill at art.

The programme came about after Edinburgh Decorative Fine Arts Society generously donated £5,000 to AiH earlier in 2013, part of which AiH decided to spend specifically on an art workshop programme in a sheltered housing complex around Edinburgh – a new venture having previously focused on workshops in Hospitals, Care Homes and care-related charities. We heard about Sunnyside Court where at least 9 residents were very interested in doing art workshop and the sheltered housing manager, Mary Riseborough, helped to develop the link and start the programme.

Mary herself took part in one of the workshops and was heard to comment, “I could just feel the happy atmosphere…[I was] totally engrossed”. At the end of the programme, she added, “The way in which they have encouraged one another has been inspirational…[and] the community spirit has been great”.

Indeed, participants seemed to highly value the experience and when asked about what they enjoyed, comments collected via feedback forms reported: “Everything…having fun”; “chance to express myself in art form”; “I didn’t think I could do it!”; “the company – really good. Keeps me going”; “doing things I’ve never done before…working with other people…very pleased with what I did”; “togetherness”; “I found it all encouraging and exciting, very stimulating and I learned a great deal about art creation”.

When asked about what went well, comments from participants included: “The group support and friendships which encouraged both the painting and creating of work and the desire not to finish the experience”; “Everyone felt they achieved something they would not have believed when they started”.

Clearly the art workshops were about more than just creativity for the participants but about the coming together with others to create, and the opportunity for them to try something new with the support of people around them.

What happens next, now that the AiH workshop series and exhibition are past? From early on in the series, the group clearly wanted to make art workshops a regular feature in the lounge of Sunnyside Court and not just as an informal get-together amongst themselves but with the added value of a visiting artist to impart knowledge, teach them new skills and further engage them in the world of visual arts. So the group are planning to apply for funding themselves, which would enable them to effectively buy a series of workshops for a longer period of time at Sunnyside Court.

Meanwhile, AiH intends to do more workshops in sheltered housing in due course, dependent on our funding, so watch this space…

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