The Art Organisation’s laudable aim is to use art as a way to get people involved in the community. Impact’s Anne Moore has visited their fascinating exhibition of photographs and commentary created entirely by people with mental health problems.
One way to identify yourself as a person is through the people you know and the places you go. As a university student we have access to a huge social networking system, but what happens to people who find themselves on their own in life?
Last weekend I took a trip to 21 Station Street, where The Art Organisation runs a small set of studios, a gallery and a tea shop. The current exhibition is based on the lives of people using mental health services and it examines the lives of those who sometimes live on the fringes of society. Over 1000 photographs were taken over the course of the project, and 200 images were accompanied by words.
As a viewer I found these small windows into another person’s life quite moving. It was the words that really fascinated me. The project aimed to research what involvement members of mental care homes had with their community, and encourage new creative and photographic skills. So although the works produced were quite simple, they really challenged you. Sentences such as, “I go for cigarettes. They know me quite well but I don’t stop and chat. I’m not very good at chit chat,” clearly demonstrated the difficulties of those who find it hard to integrate.
The people behind these photographs treasured any small moment of communication they had, “been going to Moulin Rouge for years, make you feel welcome, wanted, they value your custom… especially the kebab guy who’s got a real cheesy grin.” When I go to the shops, after a polite ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ for packing my bags I don’t really give the shop assistant a second glance. Not that I’m somehow unappreciative in doing this, but I have a larger group of people, from housemates to friends to tutors, that I interact with on a regular basis. Imagine not having this.
The key issue at the heart of the project is challenging prejudice and discrimination faced by people who have received a psychiatric diagnosis experience. I own up- I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t have any knowledge of mental health. But this exhibition gave me a lot more insight into the difficulties these people face than reading a psychology book.
For more information visit www.makingwaves.org and www.theartorganisation.co.uk