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A Bigger Picture

Art & Soul continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people through ‘A Bigger Picture’, an arts workshop programme designed to improve mental health and wellbeing. A Bigger Picture works with local partners: Culture4Keeps, Adolescent Outreach Team and the Priory to support mental health for children and young people.

This piece, written by workshop assistant Olivia Bladen, gives an insight into Art & Soul’s partnership with Culture4Keeps, the arts programme at Achieving for Children. Culture4Keeps ensures that children in care receive cultural capital and arts opportunities in line with their peers. They send out activity packs and run online and in-person sessions for children and young people in care in Richmond and Kingston. Thanks to funding from One Richmond as part of the A Bigger Picture project, this now includes a series of five partner sessions with Art & Soul over the summer, taking place at the Clore Learning Centre, Hampton Court Palace.

Although it has now been a few weeks, it still does not feel any less special to walk through the grounds of Hampton Court Palace and know we are about to make art here. We have been lucky enough to run these sessions from the spacious Clore Learning Centre, just a short distance from the impressive palace entrance, and the beautifully curated flower and kitchen gardens. Inspired by the grand aesthetics of our surroundings, Gwen has devised a range of activities to improve wellbeing. The theme 'what makes you feel powerful?' has been chosen to aid participant feelings of empowerment - to have a voice, to make their own choices and to feel proud of what they make. Many of the group members have been working on the Culture4Keeps activity packs at home, but for some this is the first chance they have had to make art together in person. Creating an encouraging and relaxed environment is a big part of improving access to arts and culture. It is important to welcome those for whom art making is a new experience, and help them feel empowered to create and experiment without pressure.

A display of flags and banners made by the group.

There has been no shortage of creative opportunities for the children and young people as we've tried out many techniques together. One activity was decorating banners and t-shirts. As these are items used to display something, the activity was about feeling proud of what makes a person their powerful self. People in the group chose someone who was important to them, a hobby or a favourite time of year to represent this. And being long-lasting materials, their creations could serve as helpful reminders: for example, a banner can be hung up in a room and declare it an important space to just 'be me'. Meanwhile some people made theirs as gifts to give away, another act that can help us feel good. 

Making stamps for t-shirt printing.

Spray painting with stencils.

But of all the materials we have used, the spray paints and stencils were those vocally the most enthused about and it seemed to be an exhilarating act for participants to use them. As one young person pointed out, there is a satisfying materiality to them - they 'love[d] the drips', the 'imperfect' effect and the eye-popping neon. It is a decisive act that creates bold and stand-out results - and there is certainly power in that. 

Another important wellbeing element of these sessions has been our breaks to visit the palace rooms and grounds, including the 'Gold and Glory' exhibition (where we saw examples of the lavish art commissioned by King Henry VIII), and the gardens where we saw all the food that is being grown there to this day. Sarah Fairbairn from the Hampton Court Palace Learning team has been kind enough to show us around and participants have been eager to ask questions and share their own knowledge. These ventures have been great opportunities to stretch our legs, learn new things and come back to the art room inspired by what we've seen. As Henry VIII knew himself when he built his palace: art and design are truly powerful.  Emerging feedback from this project has already shown how empowering the art making sessions have been for the young people and Art & Soul hopes to continue this important work moving forward.

A view from Hampton Court Palace flower garden.

A painted ceiling inside the palace.



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