Thursday, 24 September 2015

MIND art workshop, September-October 2015


Dawn Tomlin describes the benefits of the class run on Mondays at Centrepieces, specifically created for users of Bexleyheath's MIND mental health charity.

MIND papier mache art display

In 1994 I began my teaching journey. My vibrant and eager 4 and 5 year-olds were inquisitive explorers of the art world and approached art with enjoyment and without fear. Art was an important way to express themselves as individuals, a way to explore and learn new techniques and develop skills, but, most importantly, it was a natural way for them to relax, as well as find their own individual direction in the world of creativity.

“… the arts have been an inseparable part of the human journey; indeed, we depend on the arts to carry us toward the fullness of our humanity. We value them for themselves, and because we do, we believe knowing and practicing them is fundamental to the healthy development of our children's minds and spirits. That is why, in any civilization – ours included – the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term ‘education’. We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge and skills in the arts.”
National Standards for Arts Education

As adults, many of us tend to lose the ability to create freely when producing art. Pablo Picasso (b.1881- d.1973) once said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ In my mind’s eye, I see everyone as artists, but the self-belief and innocence of childhood has to be found again so adults can explore, enjoy and express themselves without fear. This is the outlook that I hope to nurture and develop within the MIND art group at Centrepieces; I believe we are all artists in our own right.

'Dudley', backdrawn mono-print and
oil pastels, by Jeremy Taylor
Centrepieces successfully began a learning partnership with MIND in Bexleyheath in November 2014. Each term, we meet on Monday mornings at 10am for an hour-and-a-half, for 8 weeks, when a new art medium, technique and related skills is introduced to the attendees. This is a new journey, one that we are all participating in and learning from together, teacher and artists alike. To date we have covered collage, mono-printing, clay tiles, organic sculpture, paper sculpture, papier-mâché, mask making and, most recently, Modroc modelling (plaster gauze).

In the Centrepieces MIND art group, each artist grows both as an individual and as a group member. Since teaching in these sessions, I have seen a positive effect on the artists’ mental health and social inclusion skills. Artists become more self-aware as their confidence grows, and their self-esteem in turn becomes stronger. Communication skills also improve, as well as the social and emotional skills needed to participate in group sessions. Pleasingly, there is also an increased resilience to the challenges involved in adapting to new social situations, particularly in overcoming obstacles when things do not go quite according to plan during the classes.

 Organic sculptures
The feelings of stability that the artists gain as the term goes on not only strengthens the bonds within the group, but also the artists’ friends and family. I have been fortunate to meet some of the parents, spouses and children of our MIND artists, and they have greeted me with positive feedback concerning their relatives’ well-being since attending the sessions, largely prompted by the new skills and knowledge they’ve gained. Not only that, in turn the artists have been passing on their new insight and knowledge to their friends and family.

For us here at Centrepieces, that’s extremely rewarding all round.

Modroc hands

Images copyright: Dawn Tomlin

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