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Partnerships work in the spotlight at international museums conference

This tape sculpture was made in Bourtreehill Park by young people
of the Life Hacks project and artist Iman Tajik

A short film featuring artwork created by North Ayrshire young people has been shown as part of Museum Next’s recent conference on wellbeing.

The online summit shone a spotlight on the partnership work museums can do to improve mental health, general wellbeing and social isolation, and was attended by those involved in wellbeing projects from museums across the world.

The film, produced by Siobhan McConnachie, Head of Learning and Engagement for National Galleries of Scotland, highlights the joint work done between the National Galleries and NAHSCP/NAC, and includes clips from two project workers from the Rosemount Crisis Intervention Service.

National Galleries of Scotland has been working in partnership with NAHSCP on youth arts projects since 2015. In the video, Siobhan discusses the 2019 project, Beings. The most recent project, Life Hacks, began in summer 2021, with a group of service users from North Ayrshire taking part.

In the spotlight at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Young people were initially invited to take part in the project by NAC’s Youth Services Team, NAHSCP’s Children and Families Disabilities Team, the Rosemount Project, the Family Placement Team, the newly formed Children and Adolescent Specialist Substances Team, Community Payback and Justice Services teams, Young Persons Support Team and the Syrian Resettlement Team.

They each received a pack of art supplies allowing them to participate in weekly online Zoom sessions with local artists, where the artists were able to give an insight into their creative process and what inspires them, as well as setting challenges for the participants to take part in.

Throughout last summer and autumn, a number of outdoor activities took place at Eglinton Park, Kilwinning, with the young people working with local artist Bruce Mack to build an outdoor gallery and workspace for creative activities at the park. Some activities also tied in with pieces of work based around mental health and wellbeing for young people during Suicide Prevention Week in early September.

A successful exhibition of work was held in the park’s Racquet Hall in October, with some of the pieces currently on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as part of the ‘You Are Here’ exhibition.

Image courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland

Using creativity as a form of coping strategy

Patrick Farren, Project Worker from NAHSCP’s Rosemount Team, appears in the video to speak about the benefits the Beings project had on the wellbeing of young participants.

He said: “One of the bits of feedback we’ve had is that in an inadvertent way it’s provided them a therapeutic outlet and led to them developing coping strategies, so if they’re having any distressing thoughts they can focus on a piece of artwork that proves to give a diversion away from the negative patterns of thinking.

“In terms of bottling up feelings, the artwork has been a vehicle to let them express negative emotions, and I think for the young people it’s been very beneficial in helping them become more independent and ensuring they can keep themselves safe.”

You can view the full video online here, using the password ‘ArtHelps’, or find out more about the Museums Next conference here.

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