Room for Art - Room for Carers
A story by Art in Healthcare
We delivered Room for Art a series of online visual arts workshops facilitated by an artist on a weekly basis for unpaid carers in Edinburgh and Midlothian with the aim of improving health and wellbeing. Art material packs accompanied the sessions and we explored lots of different art techniques.
What Room for Art - Room for Carers did
We provided 24 online art workshops for groups of unpaid carers, we also held 3 in person sessions at the Vocal premises in Leith Edinburgh. Vocal managed the participant list on a first come first serve basis and all were unpaid carers accessing Vocal services. Room for Art artists offered inspiring and creative activities designed to promote positive mental health. We explored art techniques including painting (watercolour/ acrylic), drawing, printmaking, ceramics, jewellery, sculpture, collage, marbling and origami. Individual art material packs and activity sheets were sent out to accompany the workshops and to keep in touch.
Along with the Vocal member of staff, we facilitated and supported any discussions or points raised by participants that expressed issues that they may be facing. The fund enabled us to develop our partnership with Vocal and enable these conversations to take place. Our project addressed the following Creative Breaks priority areas - Mutual Benefit, Personalisation, Targeted Support, Adding Value, Developing Knowledge and Understanding
What went well was the attendance online, regular sharing, encouragement and learning between participants. There was a lot of shared experience, sharing of useful services and peer support. There was also evidence of activities being used with the cared for person also and the artist was able to give guidance on this. Workshops online really opened up the activity to people that would not be able to attend in person due to caring commitments.
What Art in Healthcare has learned
Pros and cons of working online and in person - it was challenging at first not being in the room together, but we employ a very experienced art facilitator who was supported by a member of staff at VOCAL. We became skilled at making sure everyone was heard and had a chance to share and included group activities where everyone can draw on Zoom and create a collaborative art work. It opened up the workshops to other carers that would not usually have been able to attend before the pandemic due to caring responsibilities. However, being in the carers home, meant they were not able to fully get a break from their role.
Timing - We had low attendance for the in-person workshops which told us that they were not quite ready for this yet and we should have remained online a bit longer. The timings of it were also not quite right as it covered school pick up. Future workshops would take place in the morning.
Partnership - really useful to have member of VOCAL staff there to help facilitate discussions about shared experience
Workshop content - we learnt about what art materials worked best to send to the carers and the activities that are most popular.
Partnerships - it was so beneficial to have VOCAL in the room to help facilitate discussions about shared experience and services. This is something we would like to build on going forward.
How Art in Healthcare has benefitted from the funding
It definitely helped build our skills, knowledge and capacity to working online which is something we want to continue in future. It built on our partnership with VOCAL, which is something we will build on in the year to come.
Up to 30 carers to have the space to take some time from their caring role to be creative and each week to have a bustling art group happily producing an array of work.
There were 3 blocks of online art workshops and one in person block of workshops with 24 carers attending various blocks. It was decided to allow carers to do more than one block if they wanted to get through such a difficult time so we did not quite reach the target of 30. The attendance was fantastic and the group came together, sharing their different art works. Carers have been able to enjoy a life outside of caring, by attending room for art sessions. This has motivated and boosted carers to look at other avenues for art and other hobbies.
The carer looks after her husband who had a stroke and aphasia, she cares for him 24/7 at home with very little support (and even less support when his respite services were stopped during the pandemic). The carer attended the face to face workshop where Heather the artists showed them how to look at art differently. She demonstrated how to look at art using the different light coming through the shadows in the windows and also looking at art by putting your hand in a diamond shape. The carer said ‘I found this new way of looking at art extremely joyful and interesting and wanted to try this in a different setting. It gave me the motivation and boost to ask a friend to come with me to a local art gallery where I tried out my new techniques, and I even taught my friend!!!’ She came back to the art class the next week and shared her experiences with Heather and the other group members, who all were very supportive. She felt she had learned a new skill and confidence. This gave her a real enjoyment out of the ‘normal’ caring life and she would never have done it had she not gone to the room for art class with Heather and VOCAL. She hopes to attend many art galleries in the future.
Relationships/ friendships established in the group/ Peer support network/ Creating a space for creativity and open discussion to share experience.
Our online workshops delivered during COVID restrictions and helped carers to keep going during the difficult times. Especially when many carers where shielding or being careful during the pandemic. Being able to attend online art sessions allowed carers a short respite which enabled them to go back and continue in their caring role. Many connections were made between the carers - sharing useful services, experiences as well as their art works and creative tips.
The carer looks after her husband who had a stroke and aphasia, she cares for him 24/7 at home with very little support (and even less support when his respite services were stopped during the pandemic). The carer attended the face to face and online workshops with VOCAL. She valued her time away from her caring role. She told us ‘during the height of the pandemic my husband and I were together 24/7 as all his respite services has stopped. I really felt at breaking point as I was getting no time for myself, it was having an impact on our relationship. When I heard about the room for art sessions at VOCAL I jumped at the chance. A pack was delivered to my home, I set up a quiet nook in my bedroom with nice candles and comfy pillows and enjoyed every moment of the online art classes. I was able to immerse myself in something which was not caring, it really was a lifeline during a very stressful time. After the sessions I was able to go back to my husband and tell him and show him my art projects. This really helped with our relationship and enabled me a bit of a boost to carry on in my caring role’.
Relationships/ friendships established in the group/ Peer support network/ Carers more relaxed after each session
Carers have reported an improvement in their health and wellbeing as a result of attending the Room for Art sessions. This has been achieved by meeting other carers at the classes and having the opportunity to be creative. There was a really great group dynamic that formed very quickly, brought together by shared experience. Generally, carers appeared more relaxed and energised at the end of each session.
The carer has 2 adult children who she cares for, one with Asperger’s and one with seizures and physical disabilities. While she doesn’t live with the children, she feels constantly ‘on call’ and the contact worry about her daughter having a seizure. The room for art sessions are a ‘welcome break’ from this. She told us she felt the room for art sessions helped her enormously with her health and wellbeing. It was twofold, she got to do one of her passions which is arts and crafts but the biggest help for her was meeting and speaking to the other carers in the class. She told us’ sometimes we talk about our caring roles and the challenges we all face , it’s good to know there is someone in a similar situation to yourself (or even just someone having worse day than you!!!). Often the chat is about the art project we are working on and so many of the carers are just so talented. It’s nice to be able share tips and ideas and give advice to other carers. Everyone in the class is so supportive and really egg’s me on to give me confidence in my art work. Most of the time the chat is general chit chat which in itself is lovely as it’s so rare I am able to do this. Doing room for art at VOCAL has helped me remember who I am in and that I need to take time for myself because if I don’t I will just burn out. This little time I have had to take the time out from caring and meet some wonderful people has been such a life line. Even my daughters noticed how relaxed I was after the sessions and this I think was comforting to them. I will continue to try out as many arts and crafts sessions as I can’.
Additional project outcome
Developing new skills - Growing confidence for participants producing art and developing creative thinking skills. Some art activities passed on between participants and to the people they care for.
One carer contacted VOCAL after a session to apologise for not talking or sharing in the session – she was finding it difficult to speak out in the group. She was interesting learning how to display work, which was brought up and explored in the following session. The group joined in and had lots of chat around it. After that, she chatted in every session – the process had increased her comfort and allowed her to open up. We sent a copy of our Encounters book (a Dementia friendly resource) and delivered a whole session around how you might use it for those cared for. She started doing work with her Mum and passing on the skills she had learnt and trying thinks out for who she cared for.