Project eARTh (Environmental Arts &health)

Project eARTh, High Peak Community Arts

Aims and objectives:
For adults experiencing mental distress or other long term conditions to work collectively in high quality participatory arts projects to create art works for local communities.

  • Through the above, for participants to improve wellbeing, learn new skills, build confidence and self -esteem, be more ready to meet challenges, to reduce isolation, be more active in the community, and improve their life chances.
  • To enrich people’s lives through creation of high quality artworks.

Description of the arts activity

‘We can imagine the mind as a personal lost and found department; an incomprehensibly complex, surprising and bewildering space in which memories are stored, arranged, re-arranged, discovered and forgotten in the course of a lifetime. Music has a special relationship with this department. Music is like a superpower that has the ability to reach into the deepest recesses of the mind and discover things thought lost years ago. In an instant, music brings it to the surface, where it flourishes, dances, lives and breathes. It might be the intense emotion of a first kiss, the memory of a special event, or a seemingly unimportant moment which suddenly becomes very real and present’.

Details of the project participants

Recruitment is aimed at adults experiencing mental distress and other long term conditions. Referrals come from the Community Mental Health Team, and Mental Health Project; Social Services, Housing Associations; GP practices and self referrals. We have posters and leaflets in community venues, press releases in papers and interviews on radio. Inlcides those with anxiety, stress, depression, OCD, PTSD, bi polar, personality disorders & others. Ages range from twenties to seventies.

Project management

The project is managed by High Peak Community Arts. Their co-ordinator budgets the prgramme, contracts artists and works with them on planning; organises installation of artworks and celebratory events; hires rooms, transport, arranges steering group meetings etc. Mental health staff refers participants, conduct baseline /review interviews, and attend sessions to support participants.

All sessions are led by DBS cleared professional artists, supported by mental health staff and volunteers. We keep weekly journals of photos and comments to document projects. Weekly evaluation forms (anonymous) are read by the artist to see if anything needs to be changed the next week.. All participants sign consent forms for photography, and Nottingham University have ethics approval for interviews. High Peak Community Arts has PQASSO level 1, and we review policies on a regular basis.

Evaluation methods and findings

Participants have one to one baseline interviews, and regular review interviews using a specially designed questionnaire, and the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Participants also complete a short evaluation form every week.
1) In the first 5 years, 84 people reported on improvements in their wellbeing. From weekly evaluation sheets we found that on average, people felt 22% better for attending that day.

Longer term improvements were reported in one to one reviews.

Improvements included:

  • Feeling less stressedFeeling more motivated
  • Feeling more confident
  • Having more friends
  • Improvements in self -worth through creating and celebrating public art works for the community
  • Getting out of the house, not being ‘stuck in 4 walls’
  • Reducing isolation, meeting other people, meeting new people, socializing, making friends
  • Feeling relaxed during or after sessions
  • Transition from feeling stressed/ anxious to feeling relaxed
  • Being absorbed in the artwork – so that negative thoughts are displaced
  • Feeling calmed by absorption in the artwork
  • Being creative
  • Working with one’s hands
  • Being active
  • Time going fast
  • Being outdoors in the fresh air
  • General enjoyment, feeling happier
  • Enjoyment of learning new things – artistic and personal
  • Pride in achievements
  • Excitement in project ideas

2) An average of 46 core participants each year learnt new skills, artistic and social / personal / group skills. From this, participants reported greater confidence as a major benefit, increased self expression through the art, and ability to take on new challenges – e.g one person taking on public speaking.

3) These also improved life chances for participants. See (4).

4) 64 people reported on feeling healthier and being more active in the community – making friends, getting out more, joining other community groups, classes, courses, taking on voluntary or paid work. Participants have also set up their own arts and health group, meeting twice a month.

5) 118 core participants, over 250 community participants and many residents lives were enriched by the creation of 32 works of arts for the community .

Report of first 5 years available from alison@highpeakarts.org

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England