Victoria Tischler – Mental health in three dimensions: a sculpture for the new building

As part of my role as the Institute’s arts co-ordinator I have taken on the weighty task of commissioning an artwork to mark the opening of our new headquarters in May 2012. How do you represent mental health in a sculpture? This will be the task of an artist who will work with mental health service users, a local artist, and healthcare students over the summer. This series of blog posts will chart the sculpture’s progress, from the background to the project, through its design, and finally its installation right outside the entrance to our new building. Not to forget the grand unveiling in November! You’ll be getting updates from me and also mental health servicer users, students and the sculptor. Oh, and there’ll be lots of pictures of course!

Art in the Institute: With the generous support of Nick Manning and Gerry Carton, since 2009 the Institute has been hosting successful art exhibitions in partnership with City Arts ( The exhibitions have added colour and interest to the Institute offices and more importantly have created opportunities for staff, students and people with mental health difficulties to display and sell their artwork. The exhibitions have proved popular with staff and visitors (see PDF: review_identity) even though some of the work included is challenging, see Vince Law’s ‘This is what you did to my head 2’ part of current ‘diversity exhibition’.

Many an interesting conversation has been overheard in the corridors about the work on display.

I am a strong advocate for the therapeutic usefulness of art for people who experience mental distress and the exhibitions help to promote social inclusion by giving people who may feel marginalised the opportunity to display their work. We have an opening for each exhibition to which we invite artists and staff.

We offer awards, here are Nick (IMH Director) and I giving an award to  artist Anthony Gariff in front of his work. 

A guest judge helps me with this task, for the current ‘diversity’ exhibition it was the talented artist and doctor Ian Williams (

Exhibiting has a positive impact on artists taking part see for example

For me, one particularly memorable encounter was with an artist who approached me at an exhibition opening. She has obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety and has a long history of involvement with mental health services. She was accompanied by a carer and she held out her trembling hand towards me. Fighting back tears she thanked me, telling me how much it meant to her to have the opportunity to show her art on the Institute’s walls and for staff to be able to view her work.

It seemed natural to plan a special artwork to mark the opening of our impressive new headquarters. The hardest part thus far has been fundraising, not straightforward in these tough economic times. Yet, ably assisted by Tim Harris, an arts and culture consultant I have raised an impressive £32 K for the project. An advert (see PDF: IMH sculpture advert copy) to find the right sculptor was sent out at the beginning of February. Since then we have responded to requests for further information from almost 200 artists from far and wide, even from the USA! Thanks to Tim and Phil Wain for helping with this. A small group including university and Institute staff, a curator, an artist, a service user, and a medical student will gather soon to shortlist 3 artists. They will create maquettes (models) to go on display online and in the Inst offices for you to comment on and choose your favourite. I will be visiting Rampton hospital soon to consult with patients there about the project, giving them a chance to have some input into the sculpture design. What do you think the sculpture should look like? Let me know. More soon. Victoria.



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4 responses to “Victoria Tischler – Mental health in three dimensions: a sculpture for the new building

  1. I don’t work in the IMH building itself (I’m over in the Law Dept on the Park Campus), and so whenever I come over to the Jubilee site to visit the IMH, the one thing I’m always struck by is the beautiful artwork on the walls. Not only is the artwork beautiful, but the stories behind it are always so interesting and often moving. I’d actually found out about the sculpture from my partner, who is a photographer and saw the advert on artsjobs. He thought it was a great idea, to involve service users in this way, and I have to say I agree! Visual representations can so often be more powerful and lasting than words, particularly when it is something as complex and mecurial as mental illness.

  2. Keith Dorn

    I am the lead artist for Thursday Art Group who will be working with the shortlisted artists for the new IMH sculpture at Nottingham University’s Jubilee Campus. They are a dynamic group and have exhibited in their own right at Crocus Gallery, Duncan MacMillan House, the IMH exhibitions, Nottingham Light Nights and have engaged in creative projects with City Arts, Nottingham Contemporary, New Art Exchange and Nottinghamshire County Council.
    They have existed as a group since May 2005 under the umbrella of City Arts (an organisation that brings people together to pursue arts, stimulate change and create stronger, healthier communities), when they first came together as The Thursday Drop-in Group, and I first met two ladies who were eager to do something creative to help lift them out of the doldrums. Over the next few months word of the group attracted a wide variety of people from around Nottingham who were marginalised and socially isolated through, mental health issues, disability, old age, financial hardship and lack of self-esteem.
    They were all eager to be creative and attacked art with a raw talent to generate an immense amount of work, which was exhibited around the offices of City Arts and Castle Cavendish Business Centre where they experienced their first opening event. Some members have developed the confidence to successfully complete college and university courses and others have volunteered to pass on their skills to others on other arts projects for City Arts. The group has grown to about fourteen members and became a constituted group in 2008. They have applied for, and won, £10,600 in grant funding from different funders to develop programmes of events that includes visits to galleries around the country, which broadens their knowledge of contemporary and historical art and informs the work they produce. At the end of last summer they had a sunny day out at Scarborough and visited an exhibition of Howard Hodgkin prints. They later enjoyed tea by the sea and created a piece of art on the beach before embarking on the journey home to see how many different types of electricity pylon could be spotted because they were developing work around the notion of the mundane journey, from which a wide variety of work was created and the group realised the interest that could be generated from the mundane. Then the spotlight was on Hodgkin and abstract art. Colour knew no bounds !WOW! the work was amazing.
    They now have the opportunity to help in the process of creating a piece of sculpture that will front the new IMH building and work with artists who create public art. They have the names of the shortlisted artists and those with computers are researching them as I type. I will show images and discuss these artists and I know the group will like, and dislike some of their work and I will encourage them to challenge the artists about their work when they meet.
    Over the next few weeks they are working with the artists at City Art’ studio to offer their input and help inform the maquettes and the final piece of work. All the members are so excited to have this opportunity and it will be another experience they can draw on in their catalogue of adventures in art.

  3. Pingback: Victoria Tischler – Mental health in three dimensions: a sculpture for the new building, blog post 2 | IMH Blog (Nottingham)

  4. Pingback: Shortlist for IMH Sculpture – Vote for your favourite! | IMH Blog (Nottingham)

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