Health and Wellbeing

Sculpting Thoughts workshopSculpting Thoughts workshopmembers of Wai Yin mental health group sketching in gallery WellbeingWai Yin mental health group with banner they've created

We're working with partner organisations in the health sector to encourage people to use the gallery and its collections to enhance their sense of wellbeing

We've worked with several groups, including young people and adults accessing mental health services and young people in hospital. Together, we explore the role of art appreciation and self expression in maintaining personal health and wellbeing. Some of these projects have resulted in displays and permanent resources in the gallery that invite general visitors to reflect on their own wellbeing and how their enjoyment of art and creativity affects this.

“When I’m working creatively I feel uplifted – I am enjoying myself.”
Participant in Say it with project

This work began as part of Who Cares? a programme of pilot projects in the North West, researching how museums and galleries can be used to enhance heath and wellbeing. We are currently building on Who Cares? to encourage more people to see the gallery as a place that could help them feel good. Find out more about Who Cares? here.

If you’d like to find out more about arts and wellbeing projects at Manchester Art Gallery, contact Louise Thompson, Health and Wellbeing Manager:

Tel: 0161 235 8844
Email:
l.thompson1@manchester.gov.uk

Example projects

Held

2009

Adults from the award winning arts-based mental health service Start Manchester created their own exhibition

Held by Liam Michael Hunt

Start in Manchester help people recover from severe and enduring mental health difficulties through art and gardening.

Students and staff from Start worked to produce artworks that were on display in the gallery from 28 February to 5 July 2009. The exhibition explored themes of wellbeing, specifically investigating coping strategies and the idea that we all hold our own wellbeing in our own hands. 

Participants from Start visited the gallery to explore works within the collection that related to their themes.  As well as making works for the exhibition, participants got involved in producing a gallery wellbeing trail, writing interpretation and creating exhibition display for their artworks.

There was a public events programme relating to this exhibition, which included live music performances, tours and art workshops.

There's more information on the exhibition here.

Visit Start's website.

Project partners: Start, Manchester.

Funding: Working Neighbourhood Fund, Manchester Mental Health & Social Care Trust.

Image © Liam Michael Hunt

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Say it with...

2010

Say it with was an arts and well-being course with the theme of flowers

Say It WithSay It WithSay It WithSay It With

The participants were from Start Manchester and Out in the City. Creating a mixed group was a deliberate attempt to offer an art course that was also a social opportunity, particularly for those who might feel anxious in social situations.

The course ran for 12 weekly sessions at three different venues; Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Museum's Herbarium and Start Manchester.

It included art appreciation, drawing, creative writing, paper mosaic, printing and ceramics. We used Dutch still life flower paintings, ceramic tiles and botanical specimens from the collections of Manchester Art Gallery and Manchester Museum to inspire discussion and creative activities.

Participants and curators explored the symbolism of flowers in art and the medicinal properties of plants. They also tried “mindfulness” exercises that helped them to examine flowers and plants in detail.

The participants made ceramic tiles featuring poetry they had written and flower images hey had created. These were displayed at Manchester Art Gallery.

“My confidence and self esteem have improved and I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

“I now can appreciate a little more how intricate the process of getting to a finished product is. I hadn't realised how much patience I possessed!”

“My ability to manipulate art and materials means that I can make things change.”

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Wai Yin mental health group

2010

A series of workshops to explore creativity and art appreciation as a way to encourage good mental health

 Wai Yin Mental HealthWai Yin Mental HealthWai Yin Mental Health

Members of Wai Yin Chinese Women's Society's mental health group worked with artist Christine Evans. They learned creative techniques, including printing, collage, textiles and mark making. The gallery's collection provided inspiriration for discussion, ideas and creativity.

The project encouraged participants to see the gallery as "their place" and somewhere they could visit independently with confidence. It built participants' self-esteem as they mastered new skills and produced impressive creative work. This has provided inspiration and enjoyment and encouraged participants in further learning and creative activities. The participants testify that this has helped them in maintaining a sense of wellbeing and positive mental health

"The sessions made me feel younger.”

"I feel like I can finish things now”

“It changed how and why I make things: before it was for the family, now it is for the art”

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Capture it

2010

 photogram featuring three figures facing away from us, surrounded by stars

Looking and talking about art with young people in partnership with Wigan Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

This project involved young people aged between 12 and 17 who access mental health services. The group attended monthly sessions at the gallery over a year, where they used art appreciation, discussion and creative activities to explore themes including adolescence, change and relationships.

“No one knew in the gallery that I was ill and that was really good.” 
Young participant

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Mary Greg at the Christie

2010

Taking the gallery into the hospital to engage and inspire young people

The Christie

 The ChristieThe ChristieThe ChristieThe Christie

This project brought decorative art objects from the gallery's Mary Greg collection to young people who are patients at the Young Oncology Unit at the Christie Hospital.

In the sessions, young people with cancer related illnesses were encouraged to engage in discussion and creative activities using the objects. Each artist-led session included object handling, conversation, and practical making activities. The sessions allowed participants to be ‘young people’ first and foremost as opposed to ‘patients’.

This pilot is part of the Renaissance North West Who Cares? Project
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Unspoken

2011

Unspoken: an art appreciation, photography and wellbeing course

UnspokenUnspokenUnspoken participantUnspokenUnspokenUnspoken

Unspoken was developed and delivered in partnership by Start Manchester and Manchester Art Gallery.

Participants explored a selection of the gallery’s artworks. These works are part of a new display on the theme of the human form. The project focused on body language and how artists use this to tell visual stories. Participants went behind the scenes at the gallery; meeting curatorial and conservation staff to find out more about the artworks. They also worked with a creative writer and actors to explore body language and then wrote their own stories and dialogue.

Participants also worked with photographer Cathy Fortune, to learn practical photography skills such as composition and lighting techniques. Everyone made a photographic self-portrait by choosing a personal strength to represent visually; paying attention to posture, expression, clothing, setting and use of symbolic objects.

You can see the self-portraits on Flickr.

The participants’ work now forms part of the interpretation available to gallery visitors and includes the gallery trail Unspoken: body language, relationships and art.

"I’m taking away the positive psychology thing, it’s been useful. I think it came at the right time for me, but trying the exercise helped me to see things a different way. It’s made me try and think about things a bit more positively now." Participant

Start Manchester is part of Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust and helps people improve, maintain and protect their mental wellbeing through art and horticulture. Manchester Art Gallery has worked with Start Manchester on several projects and courses, using collections at the gallery to inspire Start students and offering them a learning experience outside of the healthcare setting.

Images:
On the Balcony
, 1898, John William Godward
A Passing Cloud, about 1891, Marcus Stone
© Manchester City Galleries
Other images © Unspoken participants

English Corner

English Corner

Free English conversation classes at Manchester Art Gallery. Every second Wednesday of the month 1-2.30 pm and at Thursday Lates on the third Thursday of each month 6.30-8 pm. There is now an English Corner on the first Tuesday of each month between 1-2,30 p.m. at Manchester Museum. Free. no need to book, just turn up. 

Philosophy Cafe

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Bower Meadow.
The Philosophy Café at Manchester Art Gallery is an informal discussion group meeting on the second Tuesday of each month between 10.30-12. Due to popular demand, we are starting a second Philosophy Cafe on the last Thursday evening of every month from 6 -8 p.m. starting on 26 June.  Please call or email for more information.