Art project tackles social isolation

A project to encourage older people to get involved in creative art has held a special exhibition of the participants’ work.

Art Project3

24 Jul 2018

Celebrating Age is a programme of creative engagement with the over 55s which is designed to cultivate new ways of thinking about ageing. The project consists of a series of art activities with Middlesbrough’s older residents and their carers to tackle isolation and social exclusion. The project is devised and delivered with a range of collaborators and key partner Thirteen.

The first 10-week phase of this three-year project came to end with a celebration event at Beechfield Court in Thorntree, Middlesbrough.

Residents from Beechfield Court – one of Thirteen’s Extra Care developments for older and vulnerable people – and people living in Bellamy Court, Hazel Court, Elder Court and Lingfield Ash came together to display the art they created, including ceramics, collage, paintings and poetry.

Around 40 residents and their family and friends came along to view the work which was created with the support of Isabella Smith, project lead and Assistant Learning Curator at MIMA, Lisette Auton a local poet and writer, and artist Jane Cuthbert.

Among the amateur artists were Patricia Zahn and Gary Calvert who have lived at Beechfield Court since it opened in 2015.

They worked together to create an applique picture by stitching together different fabrics to produce a colourful vase and flowers. They also worked with other residents to produce a large fabric ‘Welcome to Beechfield Court’ banner.

Patricia said: “We were looking for something to do and we heard about the art classes so we started going along to the community room to get involved.

“When we’d finished our picture, we also designed the Beechfield Court banner. We cut out all the letters and everybody else in the class helped to glue them in place. I really loved getting involved and when they come back in September, I’ll definitely be back.”

Gary added: “Bella and Liz helped us to do some brilliant things – I think they’re some of the best people in the North East.”

Chris Palmer, Extra Care Scheme Co-ordinator for Beechfield Court, said: “We’ve been really pleased to work with MIMA and a range of creative artists to help our residents produce some really eye-catching work.

“As well as creating some lovely artwork, our residents have benefited from just getting together to chat and work with each other. I know everyone has really enjoyed being involved with the project and our Extra Care developments have some interesting art to hang on their walls.”

Although this phase of the project has just come to an end, it is due to start again in September in some of Thirteen’s other Extra Care developments.

Isabella Smith, project lead and Assistant Learning Curator at MIMA, said: “This project is supported by the Arts Council’s Celebrating Age fund and is designed to use creative activities to encourage older people to overcome loneliness and all the negative impacts it can have.

“Before the project began, we were keen to come and speak to residents about the things that they wanted to do. We then went out to find artists to come and work with them to create some of the lovely pieces we have now.

“We were really pleased to work with Lisette and a number of other artists who came to help residents bring out their creative side. It’s been great to see how so many people have been so enthusiastically involved.”

The residents’ artwork will now be displayed around the Extra Care developments for all residents and visitors to enjoy.

Beechfield Court is a development of two-bedroom Extra Care apartments for over-55s. As one of many Extra Care and sheltered accommodation developments run by Thirteen, the development offers accommodation and support for older people while helping them to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

You can also see a video about the project: