Well-being Classes at The Art House

 

Although the Art House opened in 2015 the site of St Matthews, Carver Street has a long history of putting art, craft and education at the center of the community. The third vicar of the church, Father George Campbell Ommanney, believed that the church should be at the very heart of the city and offer an opportunity for people to explore the possibility of a life beyond the slums. It was Father Ommanney who was responsible for the building of St Matthew’s House – now the home of The Art House – to offer food, education and a focus of hope to the surrounding community.
The Art House continues his vision to offer a space for well-being and education in the city centre. We spoke to Ali Kitley-Jones – the Art and Well-being Coordinator about her role, her own journey of recovery through art and what the venue has to offer.

So your role is Art and Well-being Coordinator. What does that entail?
Ali: I began as a volunteer in 2010 – before the Art House even opened – to look at how art and pottery could be used to support individuals working towards well-being . Now we provide groups that allow individuals to use art as a tool for their well-being. We also work alongside outside agencies such as MIND, CRISIS, MENCAP etc.
What do you mean by ‘well –being?’
Ali: The World Health Organization defines it as: “”Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
So it’s about potential, it’s about specifically letting people explore whatever they want to in an, open and positive creative environment. We have a variety of groups so we can find the right one for every individual. We understand that people want and need different things. It’s my job to help people find the right way for them.
So what are the Well-being courses that The Art House offers?
Ali: We currently have two Pottery Well-being groups, one Art Well-being groups, an art group which is provided by Sheffield Autistic Society and also, a Stepping Stones group which builds on the skills participants have learned previously.
What can participants expect?
Ali: I think one of the most important things is that they can expect to be welcomed into an accepting community of artists all of whom are working towards well-being. You don’t have to arrive as a great artist – the groups are about expression and community. They are about creativity but also they are about developing relationships, a sense of purpose and of hope.
We sit around a communal table and we talk and we make art – in any way you want to. If you need help around specific skills we can do that. And if you don’t want to talk, that’s fine too.
Also we do two Well-being Art Exhibitions every year in our own exhibition space so participants get to display their art – if they want to – and be part of a communal show.
And you believe that art is an important tool for well-being?
Ali: I think that art can be a life saver. In fact I know it can. My own story is one of clinical depression, psychiatrists and agoraphobia that kept me housebound for years. It was only through counselling, statutory services and, importantly, art that helped me to get better.
But well-being is an ongoing journey – I still manage my own mental health every single day. And one of the most important ways I do that is through art – through painting. Mentally it helps to quieten the mind and give some respite from negative self-talk. And, with physical pain, you can push that feeling into an image and transform it into creating something beautiful.
But this isn’t just my experience – the stories that I hear every single day convince me that art can be a powerful tool for everyone’s well-being and that’s why the Art House is so important.
If people think that these classes would be beneficial to them what should they do?
Ali: If people want to discuss which group would be the best for them, they can either email info@arthousesheffield.co.uk or phone us on 0114 272 3970 and I’ll be happy to start the discussion.

Written by Steve Ford