Seeing the CAST exhibition come to fruition is always a big treat. It can often feel like a baby being safely delivered after a hard labour!
We put out a comments book to gauge the success. One passer-by said: ‘What a happy scene to greet me as I come from the gallery.’ Another person shared how it moved them to tears, and that it was really moving and inspiring to see such a variety of work.
Suddenly all the anxious anticipation and hard graft feels worth it. Particularly when you see the delight on people’s faces at exhibiting their art.
Artist Elesha Searles remarked: ‘Thank you for enabling me to exhibit my work and feel proud – I’ve been telling all my friends about it.’
We chose the theme of ‘Bridges not Barriers’ to highlight the importance of being inclusive and welcoming in the service of mental well-being and a sense of community and belonging. This is very relevant for Sheffield Mental Health Week, as people experiencing mental health issues can so often feel isolated, marginalised and like third class citizens.
It also has great relevance in a wider political context. St Mary’s Church and Community Centre, Bramall Lane – where we base our weekly CAST workshops – thrives on being a warm, friendly, culturally diverse community. Our CAST philosophy is to welcome everyone who comes to our ‘door’.
Kay Aitch led an interactive activity in the Winter Gardens, making our special places in Sheffield from cardboard cubes. One visitor said how she loved making the cubes with her daughter and that it was great way of bringing people together.
The second part of the exhibition was at DINA gallery, which gave the experience of entering a magical cavern. It was different from the high glass ceilings and wide open space of Winter Gardens. This was organised by Recovery Tutor Jenny Richards in order for us to expand the exhibition to include a wider variety of the arts, with workshops, music, poetry and film. It had a reassuringly cosy and intimate feel.
This year we managed to get assistance for the exhibition from Charlie Barnes at Ignite Imaginations, with help from Keith Lindsay, our Recovery Enterprises trusty volunteer.
Jenny and Charlie were great to work with – as were the team of art therapists and trainees who supported us voluntarily – with everyone bringing fresh ideas and remaining calm and positive throughout.
We had art work from artists all over Sheffield, including CAST members, various teams from Sheffield Health and Social Care voluntary sector mental health groups, and solo artists. Neil Simpson, CAST artist and writer, described it as a ‘cultural highlight showing the strength and depth ofoutsider art.’
We hope this rich event will continue, and we’d love to hear from you in the comments below on any ideas for taking this event forward in 2017.