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 (http://www.city-arts.org.uk/). 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 (http://graphicmedicine.org/).
Exhibiting has a positive impact on artists taking part see for example http://jennamichellepinkartist.tumblr.com/post/12563841079/city-arts-exhibition.
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 www.timharrisconsultancy.co.uk. 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.