As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months.
The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing.
One project the grant scheme supported was the ‘The Groves Artwalk’, which aimed to reduce isolation, increase community spirit and enhance residents’ wellbeing within the Groves area of York through building a community of makers and developing a series of art trail events.
Focusing on reaching the most vulnerable and isolated members of the community, the initiative set out to engage with residents through creativity activity prompts and putting together a trail that the wider community could enjoy.
At the start of the project, participants received a pack with an assortment of art materials and weekly prompts to help inspire their artwork. From drawing and clay modelling to collages and painting, the weekly activities were designed to cover a broad spectrum of different art forms. At the end of each week, the makers displayed their works in the windows, with a map created to show the art trail promoted via social media.
Participants could also get involved in weekly video calls to share their work and discuss ideas, helping to boost social contact and interactions between the group.
Natalie McKeown who led the project said “The arts are proven to have a hugely positive effect on building a sense of community and enhancing wellbeing, and with this project we really wanted to harness that to help improve the lives of local residents.
Loneliness is a known problem in the area and reducing isolation was really at the heart of this initiative, as well as giving people a chance to try something new and be creative. The weekly prompts were designed to encourage people to work with different art forms and develop new hobbies that they can easily do at home.
Feedback from participants was really positive and it was great to see that by the end of the project, 75% of participants reported that felt they were part of a community. Before we started, almost half (43%) of participants reported that their average mood during the week leading up to the project had been somewhat low or depressed. However by the end of the project, zero participants reported feeling low or depressed during the previous week which was really great to hear that the activities had had such a positive impact.
Despite the necessary restrictions with Covid meaning we couldn’t deliver the sessions face to face, it was really lovely to see the participants coming together virtually and making
meaningful connections. Over the weeks the group really bonded, sharing their art pieces and ideas and keeping in touch via messaging between sessions.
Thank you to the Better Care Fund for enabling us to put on this project and to all the participants who took part so enthusiastically and created some amazing pieces.”
For updates on future Artwalk projects, join the mailing list by emailing Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye on www.nataliemckeown.com