The power of Art on Health and Wellbeing

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Over 600 pieces of artwork created in lockdown will form new nationwide exhibition to highlight the power of art on health and wellbeing.  Art by Post: Unlocking creativity for our wellbeing launches at the Southbank Centre this September before touring nationwide for five months

Creative responses from over 4,500 Art by Post participants have been selected and carefully curated for this one-of-a-kind exhibition

The ambitious project is delivered in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) – and supported by leading international health bodies, including the World Health Organisation, as well as 13 delivery partners and over 150 domestic referral partners. The announcement comes as the Southbank Centre makes the continued case for enhanced community access to art for health and wellbeing.

The UK’s largest multi-arts centre, the Southbank Centre in London, today announces a five-month touring exhibition, which will bring over 600 pieces of artwork created during lockdown out of the shadows and into major UK venues to showcase the power of art on health & wellbeing during the pandemic.

The landmark project is the culmination of the Southbank Centre’s award-winning Covid-19 initiative, Art by Post which since it started in May 2020 has provided over 4,500 people at risk from social isolation, loneliness and digital exclusion with free cultural activities.

Art by Post: Unlocking creativity for our wellbeing will celebrate the power and potential of the role of creativity in people’s lives, their health and wellbeing. It will open on 20 September 2021 before touring the length of the country.

It comes as the Southbank Centre announces its ongoing strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP). This relationship began in June 2019 when the body was formally launched at the Southbank Centre by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. By the end of the year the body will be based at the site, enabling it to carry out urgent work in this area – the need for which has been exposed by the pandemic.

The Academy aims to champion the value of social prescribing by demonstrating the power of the arts, culture, sports, leisure and the natural environment in connecting people and communities. Working with its Thriving Communities programme, online masterclasses for community groups will be held across the country, showing how Art by Post can be emulated by community groups elsewhere, and build local momentum for social prescribing.

The new exhibition is being supported by 13 strategic partners and a further 156 delivery groups nationwide. Touring sites include: Banbury Museum & Gallery, The Mill Arts Centre (Banbury), Arts Centre Washington, HOME Manchester with two further venues are to be announced. Additional strategic partners include organisations in the health and social care arena; they will help sustain deep community engagement as the project continues to be rolled out to participants. These are Age UK Oxfordshire & Camden, artsdepot, Beacon Arts, Dulwich Picture Gallery, NAPA Arts in Care Homes, Nightingale Hammerson, Philharmonia Orchestra, HOME, Platform, Kings College Hospital Trust, Sunderland Culture and The Barn.

An online exhibition will launch at the same time to showcase the poignant creative responses to Art by Post, connecting those who are continuing to shield, or who are unable to travel, to the regional touring sites. Meanwhile, pop-ups at major NHS Hospital Trusts and care settings nationwide will bring the exhibition back to local communities.

Curated by Persilia Caton, the exhibition will showcase creative responses to the commissioned activity booklets organised by themes such as: nature, hope, sound and movement. Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, together the artworks celebrate creativity and resilience.

The success of Art by Post marks a major milestone in the Southbank Centre’s ambitious Arts and Wellbeing programme, formally launched at the venue’s Creative Health Conference in June 2019 which brought together artists, practitioners, funds and policy makers in the arts and health sectors. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rebecca Pow, then Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism and Simon Stevens CEO of NHS England were all speakers.

The Southbank Centre will continue to make the case for arts-on-prescription, building on growing clinical evidence of the benefits that arts can bring to health and wellbeing.

It remains committed to presenting an annual conference around Arts and Health as well as delivering a year round Arts and Wellbeing programme offer – further updates will be given soon.

Art by Post project participant, said:

“Since starting the Art by Post and putting words down on paper, especially the poems, it seems to be much easier, you have brought out a part of me that has laid hidden for virtually all my life, so for that alone, I thank you.”

Alexandra Brierley, Director of Creative Learning, Southbank Centre, said: “Here at the Southbank Centre we’re incredibly proud of Art by Post and its reach this past year, bringing free cultural activities to over 4,500 people nationwide to ease isolation, loneliness and digital exclusion. Now, alongside 13 delivery partners and over 150 referral partners, we’re bringing over 600 pieces of artwork from our project participants to venues nationwide and an online exhibition to showcase the vital power of art on health and wellbeing. We are hugely grateful to the support of our key partner, the National Academy for Social Prescribing as we put on this ambitious programme. We will use this moment to make the continued case for enhanced community access to art for health and wellbeing.”

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said:

“The hugely successful Art by Post project has clearly demonstrated the positive benefit that art can have on people’s wellbeing. Connecting people to art projects like this is one way that social prescribing link workers can support people, alongside their existing health plans. We’re delighted to be working with the Southbank Centre on this exhibit, demonstrating the power of art and enabling more people and communities to connect to art for their health and wellbeing.”

Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage MP, said: “This work is testament to the powerful role art can play in improving our health and wellbeing. I’m delighted that the Southbank Centre is taking this wonderful exhibition on tour and championing it online so it can be enjoyed and appreciated by as many people as possible.”

The programme will be supplemented by a six-month international campaign to showcase the Southbank Centre’s role in delivering game-changing arts and cultural initiatives that promote positive health and wellbeing outcomes. This includes: a physical presentation of Art by Post at the World Health Organisation’s upcoming International Arts and Well-being exhibition in Geneva, ‘VERSUS’ exploring the theme of resilience (7-25 June 2021); a UK-wide poster and bus stop campaign showcasing Art by Post participants via specially commissioned portrait photography alongside project poetry (September 2021); a special commission as part of National Day of Arts in Care Homes to be announced (September 2021); and continued activity as part of the Mayor of London’s Dementia Friendly Venues Charter.

Isabelle Wachsmuth, World Health Organization, said:

“Art is a universal language. Art has no borders and promotes diversity in unity. It responds to our need to share, inspire, and transform. It transcends our perceptions and senses to reveal our infinite potential.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, said:

“As a science-based organization, WHO puts a lot of emphasis on evidence and data. At the same time, we must acknowledge that art has the power to inspire and communicate in ways that guidelines, graphs and charts don’t. To achieve our goals, we must use every tool at our disposal to change behaviors and drive impact.”

Conceived at the 1951 Festival of Britain – at the time seen as a tonic for the nation’s wellbeing – through to the present day, the Southbank Centre has long been an advocate of the role of the arts and culture in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

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ehospice is grateful to The National Academy for Social Prescribing for permission to republish news items from their website.

Cover Picture: Art by Post participants. Credits (L-R): Kate Elliott; Kate Elliott; Eoin Carey

About the National Academy for Social Prescribing 

We are an organisation dedicated to the advancement of social prescribing through promotion, collaboration and innovation. We work to create partnerships, across the arts, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment, alongside other aspects of our lives, to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. We will champion social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.

Our objectives are to

  • Make some noise – raising the profile of social prescribing
  • Find resources – develop innovative funding partnerships
  • Build relationships – broker and build relationships across all sectors
  • Improve the evidence – shape and share the evidence base
  • Spread what works – promote learning on social prescribing”

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