This year’s Engage conference in Manchester brought together educators, curators, researchers, artists and policymakers to discuss the diversity of approaches to arts and health – both physical and mental – in current practice. Artist and writer Alistair Gentry reports.
Artists and mental health - a-n The Artists Information Company
In a new a-n Resources profile to coincide with Bobby Baker’s 14–18 NOW commission ‘Great & Tiny War’ – the run for which has just been extended – Lydia Ashman talks to the artist about her experiences of the mental health system and the need to address ‘transgenerational trauma’.
Since the early 1970s, Bobby Baker has been producing art that documents and subverts her experiences of everyday life, drawing on motherhood, domestic labour, and mental illness and recovery. Speaking to Lydia Ashman, Baker reflects on the challenges she faced as a woman and an artist, her successes and why she’s ‘proudest of keeping going’.
ecologies of care was initiated by artist Ria Hartley in 2018. The project comprises a growing toolkit of resources designed to support artists who have access requirements to express their needs. Hartley speaks to Lydia Ashman about the toolkit and why artists’ health and wellbeing should be a sector-wide priority. This resource is available in text format and also as a video format sound recording.
When artist and writer Alistair Gentry first shared his experiences of depression earlier this year it resulted in a flood of private feedback and led a-n to commission a series on artists and mental health for our Resources section. Drawing on the conversations he’s had with artists and arts workers, he argues for more openness about mental illness and wellness in the arts.
Illustrator Josie Brookes and animator Tom Madge collaborated over three years to produce a stop-motion animation for the NHS about managing persistent pain. The Newcastle-based artists talk to Lydia Ashman about how they worked with staff and patients to develop the film and why they came to represent pain as a cloud.
Based on conversations with artists, Alistair Gentry reflects on the stigma that still exists around mental health, and discusses some of the coping strategies artists use in their work and careers when affected by mental health problems.
Alistair Gentry offers guidance on what support is available for artists and others with mental health problems.
London-based artist Liz Atkin creates work both in response to and as way of coping with compulsive skin picking. Alistair Gentry finds out more about her art practice, and the advocacy and education work she undertakes to help others understand and deal with this and other body-focused repetitive behaviour conditions.
The Bethlem Gallery in Bromley provides a professional platform for artists who have experienced mental health difficulties. Alistair Gentry speaks to the gallery’s director Beth Elliot about the organisation and how it fosters a supportive artist-focussed environment.
Hospital Rooms is an arts and mental health charity that believes in the enduring power of the arts to instil value, dignity and wellbeing in people. Alistair Gentry speaks to Curator Niamh White about how the project enables access to art and culture for people using secure and locked mental health services.
Do the pressures of being an artist, with the precariousness of funding, the demands of unrealistic deadlines and the need to be seen to succeed and deliver consistently, make talking about depression and mental health tantamount to career suicide? Artist and writer Alistair Gentry, who has suffered with depression since a teenager, thinks the answer is ‘Yes’ – but that the issue is too important to keep quiet about.
A systematic review of the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with visual arts for adults (‘working-age’ 15-64 years) with diagnosed mental health conditions.