Studio Upstairs collaborate with Tate to talk about Mental Health

 

Studio Upstairs members were actively involved in a collaborative process that brought together various charities and the Tate Modern to exchange ideas, feelings and thoughts about mental health, wellbeing and creative practices, including visual arts.

The result of this collaboration was the event called,  Chain Reaction: How Are You? held on 5th November at the Tate Modern.

Our members and studio managers contributed by responding creatively as individuals to cube structures which were used to make an installation display. The cubes became the heart of the event as members of the public entered the space and walked around them. Throughout the afternoon people had conversations prompted by the images, colours and words they saw in the cubes, which were all related to experiences of mental health.

Sarah Walker, a member of Studio Upstairs, said:

“We took part in this project to highlight mental health issues by creating meaningful dialogues, to strengthen awareness of the work of Studio Upstairs,  and, as artists to create exciting, enjoyable and creative opportunities for Tate visitors.”

Jake, also a member of our studio added: “I  was very honoured to be a part of this project. I found it empowering: to produce the artwork and to witness others, random strangers interacting with the art. I particularly enjoyed seeing my work appreciated. It was also empowering because I felt the event was lifting the lid on stigma towards mental illness.”

At the event, members of the public were encouraged to help to make a long paper chain and placards with messages related to wellbeing; and take selfies or portraits against a background which reflected the person’s mood through the use of colours and shapes. Each one of these activities asked the public to respond to the question ‘How Are You?

Few of our members also volunteered their time to help deliver the activities.

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/tate-exchange/chain-reaction-how-are-you

We ask – How are You?

The question initiates one of the most everyday exchanges we all face. We also ask – Is there a way of answering the question so that our actual truth can exist in a world which often seems to require glib and positive responses.

Art, drama, music and poetry create languages for grief, trauma, terror, ecstasy and joy. However, in society, these areas of human experience are usually talked about in the language of illness – depression, mania, psychosis, bipolar, schizophrenia etc. We ask – Can there be other languages to describe people’s existence in a more real way.

In the field of psychiatry, we recognise that there are many individuals and groups who have a supportive and helpful influence for patients. However, we ask – Is it helpful for a person’s thoughts, endeavours, emotional life and struggles for existence to be viewed as symptoms of illness? Can there be more supportive and meaningful exchanges between psychiatry and the people seeking its support? Does mental illness in fact exist? We ask you to join us in exploring these questions.

Using some of the most powerful forms of exchange, art making, drama and discussion, consider the question – How are you? In this exploration we hope to learn more about what it is that we all need in order to connect, create and contribute?

Written by Sarah Walker

Blurred Lines and Shifting Sands: Working with Open Studio Models

 

by Katie Smith

I signed up to attend the first workshop of the new year held at London’s Studio Upstairs – with unthinking enthusiasm. Studio Upstairs works as an open studio where the Studio Managers, who are HCPC registered Art Psychotherapists work alongside members in a therapeutic community setting to bring about wellbeing.

On the day, I arrived five minutes late and brought along with me the anxiety of a first day back at school. I told myself to act my age, sat on my hands to stop them from shaking and tried not to think about a potential escape route. As I tried to ignore myself, I studied the room – a beautifully light studio of perfect size and layout, just small enough to settle into and large enough to feel free. I was warmly welcomed by the Studio Managers and shared smiles with other people attending the workshop as we introduced ourselves. Most others were MA students of Art Psychotherapy or already working within arts and mental health organisations, so as a new Studio Upstairs Office Volunteer, I was extremely aware of my inexperience. Following a welcome to the studio and explanation of where paper, paints of all kinds, inks, clay, lino printing materials, paper and reference books were kept, the art making began. In my case, it didn’t.

A second wave of fear had slapped me in the face. I watched each person in the room head towards whichever materials they felt appropriate and instantly get on with creating. Slowly my anxieties dissipated as I drew confidence from seeing others seemingly fearlessly focus on working. Despite my confidence growing, I felt like my creative block could be sensed and it was a problem. The studio manager to my left did sense this, but after a short and indirect chat, I relaxed again. The studio manager nearest me carried on calmly with her work and I drew my own calm from seeing this. I thought about how subtle this moment was, yet how effective it was in drawing me out of anxiousness just enough to allow some sort of creative release. How effective the community of Studio Upstairs must be for its individual members. One of the main roles of the Studio Managers (Art therapists) in this setting, is to ‘hold the space’ (Gadiel, 1992) and I felt I was witnessing exactly that. Interestingly, at the same time as there being support, there is also a natural movement to the working space, for instance, people worked over initial drawings with heavier materials like paint or discussed starting all over again because the piece didn’t feel quite right. An intention of the workshop was to put ‘emphasis on how containment and boundaries are held or lost when the studio is a fluid shared space’.

Personally, I had gone from being stuck in my own negative thoughts, gradually shifting out of those constraints and into a pleasant state of focus via drawing. I realise that this would not necessarily of been achieved outside of the open studio model and that must be the case for many people who are now involved in Studio Upstairs. In such a variety of cases the open studio model succeeds in allowing the unraveling of tied up and difficult emotions through a connection back to the artwork and a knowing that they are supported within a community.

David Bowie and the link between creativity and mental illness

by Monika Kalytyte

Yesterday was a day of sadness for millions of people across the world, as David Bowie, a bright star, departed our world, leaving behind a powerful legacy and writing the last line of a book which has marked a number of generations in oh so many different ways. David Bowie’s legacy, discoveries, visions and far-reaching influence, will undoubtedly remain with us, and I am confident it will be communicated with the generations to come in a similar way that it happened with Freddie Mercury.

The very element of Bowie as a person, that powered his great lyrics, his personas, his complex arrangements, his extravagant fashion ideas, his paintings, was also the part of him that he worried could at any moment defeat him.

His intellectual life was so sharp; he believed mind was not always an asset. ‘Sometimes a mind goes haywire. Sometimes a mind sends you into deep darkness, or even off the roof of a mental institution’, quite often Bowie talked about how he struggled in life with his fear of the same sort of mental collapse.

Creative people are genetically more likely to suffer from mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or depression. Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, demonstrated a link between some mental disorders and creativity: ‘To be creative, you have to think differently. And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’

Some studies have backed up this notion, suggesting that writers, artists and others are more likely to have a mental illness and that people with certain mental illnesses, such as depression and mood disorders, appear somewhat more likely to be creative.

To be creative is to make sense of and connect the small details of everything we experience, the good and the bad. All the creatives naturally tend to think more, and think about their very thoughts too. This type of thinking, lets individual examine different subjects, related with personal knowledge or the outside one, in more depth. Analyzing certain subjects creates inner war, which is sometimes necessary for bringing up some artistic outcome; however there is a fine line between that, and getting driven into mental darkness.

Otherwise, one does not need to be an artist to create, to use art as a self expression tool. Among others, art is a healing, meditative, self motivating and emotional unloading tool. Art helps to communicate and send a message to the outside world.

Through our long year experiences, we can highlight the importance of art and creativity, as integral components of recovery. Painting, sculpting, performing, and other arts are pleasurable activities but can also be a channel for expression of those parts of the self, which may not have been expressed in any other way. Art can be used as a powerful healing tool to explore deep emotions – turn them, into materials. You have way to forget for the moment, what you can’t do, be empowered to improvise and innovate.  It has the ability to transform us, awaken us and our parts to recover and heal from earlier traumas or memories. Through artwork, people can develop their own personal vocabularies for a fuller identity.

There is still so much silence around the subject of mental health, yet it’s something that can affect all of us at some point in our live. Studio Upstairs works with people and for people, to provoke thoughts, to bring the understanding and to reduce stigma at the wide audience.

It could be a New Year’s resolution for all of us; end the stigma and discrimination around mental health and become open about it. It is so important to know that you are loved and that there are people around you that care and are there to listen.

Please join and support, in any possible and appropriate way, our beautiful community at Studio Upstairs. We really need your ideas, donations, time, to maintain our everyday life here, which is so precious and special for all of us and especially for our studio members. There is place where they feel independent, safe and able to unleash their creativity.

This year, help yourself by helping others!

Big thank you from Studio Upstairs!

Big thank you to the Riverside Garden Centre in Bristol for donating some flower/herb seeds for our outside area. Some of the flowers will come up for the summer other will come up annually.

Our outside area was in need of some TLC, so a few members have been working outside today re-potting plants – thank you! The re-planting of our new seeds will happen next week..

Once the flowers have grown we will add a photo to the blog. Thanks once again!

Studio Upstairs Bristol visits Expressions 2013

This morning a couple of the team and some members from the Bristol Studio visited the Expressions 2013 Festival at the Paintworks Event Space. Expressions is a yearly exhibition run by The Milestones Trust. This year’s Expressions is about ‘bringing the outside in’.

It is such a fun show! Weird and wonderful with a million things to look at. The entrance is very spring-like, with hundreds of hand crafted projects.

Then the visitors have to pick through  hanging images printed on material to get into the main show. Once into the main show the visitor is greeted by a felted Angel and busts of Elvis, The Queen, Gandalf and others (including a particularly unnerving owl-woman).

The show is split up into different parts for different projects and installations, most of them collaborative. There was an Afghan Box Camera, a project called ‘Bringing Yourself to the Table’ and a Secret Garden amongst other installations. It was a pleasure to look round such a lively and intriguing space. They also had a great cafe (lovely tea!).

Do go and have a look if you get a chance. Expressions 2013 is on until 21st April at Paintworks, Bristol. There is a full list of events and projects here.

Written by Megan Hoyle.

Celebrating Studio Upstairs at The Royal Academy of Arts

On Friday 20th July 2012 we are delighted to be hosting an evening of celebration and a silent auction at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, to raise awareness that ONE IN FOUR adults in the UK suffers mental health problems at some time in their life. All proceeds raised will go towards supporting the work that we do in both London and Bristol.

We are now looking for artworks to be donated to the auction from the UK’s most promising artists of 2012, and that could be you!

Bristol based artist Anthony Garratt has already donated a piece to the auction alongside Rob Ryan  and Dan Baldwin.

Auction pieces  will be uploaded to the Studio Upstairs website for bidding to commence online from the 12th of July.

The event will be tied in with an evening at the Summer Exhibition, which is the Royal Academy’s busiest time of year. Artists work will be displayed in the Royal Academy, and of course its all for a good cause! Works will feature on the Studio Upstairs website, in the catalogue for the event and be exposed to art collectors.

You may submit 2D or 3D work. 2D work must be no bigger than 1m x 1m and 3D work no larger than 50cm squared.

Works selected to take part in the event will be notified by email and need to be delivered to Studio Upstairs London Unit E3, 3 Bradbury Street, London N16 8JN by MONDAY 25th JUNE.

Quartet Community Foundation support Studio Upstairs Bristol

Quartet Community Foundation supporting Studio Upstairs Bristol

This morning’s post has brought with it an offer of funding from Quartet Community Foundation and Sport relief Community Cash Grants Programme. The foundation who have supported our exhibitions in the past is now supporting Drawing Through, adding to the funds already secured from Arts Council England and The Tedworth Charitable Trust.

We are delighted that this project is shaping up so well! Watch this space for news about Drawing Through.

Artist and Curator announced for Arts Council Funded project

Bristol based charity Studio Upstairs has recently been awarded funding from Arts Council South West to stage a year-long arts project called Drawing Through. Today they announced that they have appointed local artist Alice Jones to work on the project alongside Jack Gibbon of Antlers Gallery in Bristol.

Studio Upstairs is an artist’s studio that supports adults suffering from mental health issues and those in drug and alcohol recovery. The Drawing Through project will involve Alice and Jack working alongside the 50 members who attend Studio Upstairs. Over the next few months Alice, Jack and the team at Studio Upstairs will arrange workshops, gallery visits and artist talks as well as encouraging the members to look at different ways to create art. The project will culminate in three exhibitions later this year, which will include work from the Studio’s life drawing class and writers group.

Alice Jones is an Artist and Illustrator specialising in pencil based drawing. In 2010 she received the Emerging Artist Award at The Royal West of England Academy autumn exhibition.  She studies the themes of people and landscape and is currently developing a new body of work. Of her appointment as lead artist for Drawing Through she said: ‘Studio Upstairs promotes a great place for members to express themselves creatively within a supportive community. It is a wonderful opportunity to be the Lead Artist of Studio Upstairs’ Drawing Through project in Bristol. I cannot wait to see what the members have been working on and sharing my own practice with them.’

Jack Gibbon, Director of Antlers Gallery in Bristol is going to be curating the three exhibitions later this year. “I am very excited to be working on ‘Drawing Through’ with Studio Upstairs and Alice Jones. You can tell straight away from Alice’s work that she has a deep understanding of drawing processes. I can imagine this will provide a great source of inspiration to the studio members.”

This is the first time that Studio Upstairs has received funding from the Arts Council and follows a year of intense fundraising under the leadership of Director Zlatinka Hristova who took over in February 2011. “This funding really goes to show the high quality of artwork that is produced at Studio Upstairs. We are very pleased to be able to run the project and showcase the great work of both our artists and of Alice Jones and Jack Gibbon. ”