Counselling and psychotherapy students join mental health service users and artists to create an inspiring exhibition
Service users and staff from Guild Lodge Forensic Hospital in Whittingham and the new Wesham Rehabilitation Unit have once again come together to collaborate with students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) for a free art exhibition.
This is the third time the Being Human Exhibition has been held and the first-year counselling and psychotherapy students worked hard to create pieces that represent their individuality and opinions of what it means to be human.
The project explored identity and what being human really means, with the pieces of art reflecting each of the participants’ personal journeys, challenges and inspirations going through life.
The exhibition at UCLan’s PR1 Gallery opened with a touching speech by Iain. H Williams professional artist, who said: “There is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in and those cracks and shimmers of light are what give us our identities and uniqueness”. He further added “what a wonderful way to express that by having an event like this and thank you to those who had the courage to create and put themselves forward”.
"There’s so much talk in the media about women not getting opportunities and I want to use my position as a pioneer for women in the music industry to inspire people, not just women but any gender"— Kim Hawes, UCLan Honorary Fellow and now student
Mark Love, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist and artist from Guild Lodge as part of the opening speech made reference to how service users can just be seen as “service users” and this is their prime identity. Art enables individuals to challenge this and gives them a new role, as well as allowing conversations that challenge mental health stigma.
Adding to this a service user took part in commenting on her experience of being involved in producing the artwork and how beneficial art and occupational therapy has been for her stating: “we need more of this”.
The Being Human module was introduced to the counselling and psychotherapy course 12 years ago to encourage students to find new ways of expressing themselves and exploring mental health.
Kim Hawes, UCLan Honorary Fellow and now student, 63, has just released the book ‘Lipstick and Leather’ looking at her life as tour manager for groups like Motorhead and Black Sabbath.
However, Kim has stepped away from the tour life after 40 years and decided to pick up the paintbrush for the first time this exhibition has given her the chance to stand in the spotlight rather than backstage.
"I was very self-conscious and felt like I was always judging myself and so that is why my piece is a look inside myself and what I actually feel like"— Student Sarah Smith, 21
The piece reflected her time on tour with a number of different bands. It showcases a bunch of flowers made from the strands of her new book and represents thoughts of who you are and your ability to achieve. She called it “Encore”.
Kim said: “There’s so much talk in the media about women not getting opportunities and I want to use my position as a pioneer for women in the music industry to inspire people, not just women but any gender.
“There are so many artists trying to make it and you know not many people do. But now it’s my time to be on the stage.”
Fellow student Sarah Smith, 21, also has her artwork on display in the gallery. When she started work on this project her piece was a portrait of someone else and had no connection to her. However, she began to struggle when the piece became more personal and found herself taking a look at her own mental health.
She said: “I was very self-conscious and felt like I was always judging myself and so that is why my piece is a look inside myself and what I actually feel like.
"Art enables individuals to challenge this and gives them a new role, as well as allowing conversations that challenge mental health stigma"— Mark Love, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist and artist from Guild Lodge
“I think there is still stigma towards mental health and people try to hide it as best they can from the people around them so that’s why my work is the way it is, perfect on the outside but on the inside, you see the true colours.”
The students were joined by Iain H Williams (artist), service users and staff- from both Guild Lodge Forensic Hospital in Whittingham and the new Wesham Rehabilitation Unit who portrayed through art their interruption of what identity meant to them.
A service user from Wesham Rehab Centre used a technique called pyrography, or wood burning, to create a nature inspired piece of art that shows the magic and spirit of nature.
He said: “Wood burning was completely new to me and I found the whole process to be very therapeutic. I was able to lose myself in my artwork and express my feelings in a new way. I’m really pleased with how my work turned out and it’s great to see it on display in an exhibition.”
The Being Human exhibition is open to the public until the 14 of April at UCLan’s PR1 Gallery. It can be found in UCLan’s Victoria Building on Adelphi Street, Preston, PR1 7HD.
By Ethan Banks