Yesterday was great.

Most of my days are spent in a Tasmanian Devil style blur and that’s what I love. Working on different projects, meeting new people, watching lives change and then taking the bins out and doing the paperwork all in the same day; it’s never dull!

One of the main focuses of Beauty and Utility Arts is to develop and manage creative projects with a social value by working with vulnerable groups and we put our heart and soul in to that. We want every single person we work with to enjoy the time they spend with us and feel supported, safe and happy.

Yesterday was a chance for us to step and back and say, ‘yeah, we worked super hard in 2012 and now let’s celebrate that.’ Sometimes we forget that we’re meant to enjoy our jobs so these opportunities are precious and give a great boost for all involved.

The celebration event for all the projects that received funding for Innovation Challenge phase one, the Leicestershire County Council funded programme, managed overall by Community Catalysts.

Beauty and Utility Arts worked on three out of the seven projects and as part of their own celebration, Community Catalysts launched a mini guest blog series and this was my contribution …

The three projects were:

* Partnered with East Midlands Housing Association and participatory artist Winsome Ruddock – developing and facilitating an intergenerational arts and reminiscence project with the wonderful staff and residents at St. Mary’s extra care scheme and the students at John Wycliffe Primary School in Luterworth.

* Partnered with Adullam Homes Housing Association and participatory artist Winsome Ruddock – working with men with experience of homelessness and the judicial system to produce an exhibition of artwork and creative writing.

* Supporting NW Leicestershire Borough Council and participatory artist Rikke Digerud with a quilt and fabric map project, working with older people throughout the area.

I’m a big believer in doing a job that makes you happy, shows off what you’re good at and makes a difference. Arts and Health is a fascinating area of work and I’m so pleased I’ve been able to make a career out of it and support small but significant changes. The three projects Beauty and Utility Arts were a part of were all very different, but their outcomes were similar; to create opportunities for people to express themselves through artwork and tell their story to a new audience, interact with others in a similar situation and reintroduce or spark off positive feelings of wellbeing.

Art has an incredible power to bond people together, support them to express emotions that words sometimes can not and offer something creative up to the world to ignite discussion. Anybody can pick up a pencil, pot of paint or pen and paper and have a go, but the reason our projects succeed and go above and beyond is because we have the experience to make a good project into a great one.

We understand that the above isn’t as simple as that, we know there sometimes has to be support, encouragement, the right environment and the right team working in the background for some to even consider taking part. A professional approach is key and in 2013 we’ll be launching some training for participatory artists wanting to work with vulnerable individuals, because ultimately it’s about creating an experience for those taking part and quality is paramount.

The first thing the majority of our participants say when we first meet them “I’m no good at Art,’ so we smile, nod and say “we’ll see.” Then, when we’ve used our experience to identify something of interest and they’ve produced their first piece of art, often since school, we’ll talk about that first comment and all the positive feelings that have come from the journey inbetween. Art is not a luxury, it is a form of expression and all of our projects create opportunities, lasting bonds, positive memories and a catalyst for change.

From the individuals who only come out of their houses once a week to access one project, to the isolated older person now reminiscing with a new group of friends, to those struggling to convey emotions through language, to the artist who has turned their back on an old, destructive life in favour of a new, positive creative one … we know that art is more than just an add on, it’s essential.

For details of other projects or to discuss something new, give us a shout at beautyandutilityarts@hotmail.co.uk and let’s keep making a difference…together.

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About beautyandutilityarts

My name is Katherine Brown and I run Beauty and Utility Arts, an Arts and Health project management service. I have over a decade of experience working with vulnerable groups and individuals in roles including support worker, Supported Employment Advisor and Community Fundraiser for The Midlands. Now, I manage a range of Arts and Health projects involving carers, people using mental health and learning disability services and the over 50′s. I specialise in developing ideas, fundraising, full project management, consultation, workshop provision, sourcing artists, Social Enterprise, event planning, SROI and exploring sustainability options. Since beginning Beauty and Utility Arts in January 2010 I have worked on a range of projects including comedy workshops, placing public art into health centres, setting up a Social Enterprise, project managing Showcase Smoothie, developing mental health walking projects and running arts based reminiscence workshops for the over 50′s, all of which is detailed in my blog (www.beautyandutilityarts.com)
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