As the art and photography exhibition gets underway at the Light House Independent Cinema this evening, Chris Manley, a key player in the weekly classes run for service-users of the Good Shepherd, pens a blog on the power of creativity. The exhibition runs until September 29thand is open from 1pm-8.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday inclusive.
Art is associated with the highest cultural values and aspirations. As such it appears exclusive and only accessible to the initiated. A viewpoint the art establishment is only too keen to perpetuate.
The reality is art, or the practice of art is truly democratic, irrespective of how talented the individual is. Being involved in a creative process externalises the mind bringing about a form
of mindfulness, allowing the sub conscious time for reflection and healing.
For the individuals who are destitute or, whose lives are in distress, any piece of work is a real possession. If it should be praised then their self-esteem receives a boost. For people whose lives are continually in a negative space the smallest recognition allows them to lift their heads a little higher. Then, it is hoped, they can eventually see a way forward to a fulfilling and productive life.
As a photographer by profession and an artist by inclination with a studio at The Newhampton Arts Centre, my son suggested that I may be interested in setting up some groups to allow Good Shepherd clients to experience creativity. When the idea was first suggested I was invited to see the work that Kate and Anna were doing at Base 25, and if I’m honest I was expected a negative experience. Instead, I was met with lively, curious minds, from people who have a refreshing openness and willingness to explore new ideas.
The studio brings an authenticity and an environment where achievement is seen to be possible – also it has less distractions. We are beginning to gather around us a small group of people with specific skills to support attendees in their wider lives.
My first encounter of how creativity can be redemptive was whilst talking to an attendee and asking how he was. His response was disappointment in himself for old feelings of anger and resentment returning. I suggested he spend a little while doing some acrylic abstracts, nothing formulated just freewheeling. At first he was reluctant, expressing no interest in art, but eventually was persuaded to try. After half an hour or so he came over saying how all the aggression had faded away and how settled and calm he felt. Subsequently he has been a regular attendee wanting to explore all different mediums.
Another man who is quite gifted but whose self-esteem is down on the floor was persuaded to show me some of his sketch books which contained some lovely pieces, neglected and unvalued.
My comments on how good they were, were received with indifference. I asked if I could photograph some of them, subsequently producing a couple of posters for him. His indifference turning to amazement and pride.
All of the people I’ve met have been completely honest about their lives without self-pity, resentment, or envy. It is a privilege to be allowed to touch these lives.