PortFolio is a project from Independent Arts designed to improve mental health. Independent Arts ran a successful pilot project during Summer 2019, and continued the project for a further year, thanks to a £16,000 Bupa UK Foundation grant.
PortFolio is designed to run for ten weeks at a time, providing art workshops and mindfulness sessions specifically aimed at promoting wellbeing for people with mid-life mental health issues.
Says Hannah Griffiths, Project Manager:
“PortFolio is a series of workshops across several art disciplines including 3D wirework drawing, collage, photography, 3D modelling and painting, accompanied by guided mindfulness sessions. The central theme is to allow the individual to express themselves creatively within both a social and nurturing environment. At the end of the eight weeks a portfolio of artwork is created and presented in a keepsake box.”
An estimated one in five GP visits is made for non-medical reasons and a total of 70.9 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in England in 2018. Whilst medication is one intervention, research has indicated that art therapy can have a positive effect on mental health, especially in cases of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
For more than thirty years Independent Arts has been dedicated to improving people's lives through participation in art-based activities. Every week between 500-600 people attend workshops, classes and activities facilitated by the charity.
One participant shares her thoughts on attending a recent PortFolio session:
“I had never tried wirework drawing before. The practitioner showed me some basics and I was gently encouraged to just have a go. Everyone was in the same position and before you knew it there were words of support and encouragement as well as laughter. At times I felt a clarity of mind as I concentrated intensely on shaping the wire, a welcome relief from the constant spiral of stressful thoughts and at other times I found myself in conversation or listening as someone naturally shared their frustration with OCD. I left the session feeling uplifted, like I had been to a mental health oasis.”
Portfolio workshops are led by art practitioners Trudie Wilson, Mark Lloyd, Jason Watts and Leigh Jackman; and the mindfulness sessions are with Anne Osborn and Nicola Jones.
Mental wellbeing underpins good health and impacts everyone. It is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year, yet many will receive no treatment at all. For some, mid-life can be a time of increased responsibilities, challenges and pressures, in their working lives, family lives and relationships. The prevalence of mental illness peaks among people in their middle years. Part of the Bupa UK Foundation mental health funding programme 2019 is awarded to practical, community-focused projects that will support and improve people’s mental health at this critical life-stage. Independent Arts is grateful to Bupa UK Foundation for supporting our PortFolio project.
In August 2019 our PPUG exhibition 'Mindful & Soulful' featured artwork from participants of our Portfolio pilot project. Here are some examples.
Above: Two collage self-potraits by A and D, from the PortFolio exhibition. (Lead art practitioner Leigh Jackman.)
“I found this the most personally demanding of all the workshops, trying to think about shape in relation to myself. It took me time to really think about shape and colour. My life is chaotic and my head is chaotic and there is chaos in the image I created.”
"I had never tried wirework drawing before. The practitioner showed me some basics and I was gently encouraged to have a go … I left the session feeling uplifted, like I had been to a mental health oasis."