Newbury College and West Berkshire Council have been working together to ensure that residents of West Berkshire Care homes were able to have a creative outlet, during a time in which contact with the outside world has been severely limited. The overwhelming response received from residents has led to this creative display being transformed into a virtual art exhibition, for the whole community to share.
Newbury College has been delivering art sessions to residents of several West Berkshire residential care homes for many years. These offer residents not only a chance to learn new skills but also an opportunity to meet new people, improve fine motor skills and cognitive ability, and improve mental and emotional wellbeing.
When the lockdown hit in March, all site visits were immediately halted and it wasessential to both the College and West Berkshire Council, who fund the initiative, to find a way to keep residents actively engaged in learning during this difficult time. There is overwhelming evidence to support a strong link between mental and emotional wellbeing and creativity.
As a result, Tanya Reid, Newbury College Art Lecturer, emailed the care homes each week with an art project. The weekly projects focussed on different artists, with some history, interesting facts and detailed accounts of their style and examples of their work. The artists studied were Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, the Pointillists and Banksy. Residents also learned how to make sculptures out of scrunched up paper.
Tanya Reid commented; I wanted to give the learners a focussed activity each week, with examples to guide them as starting points and inspiration. The heart of the initiative was addressing the wellbeing of the residents through creative engagement. With limitations on materials available within the homes during the lockdown, I had to think outside of the box and encourage the use of recycled materials where possible.
There were 65 pieces of artwork sent in altogether, mainly from Walnut Close in Thatcham and Willows Edge in Newbury. As Tanya explains: The exhibition is not only a celebration of the wonderful artwork produced but also the fantastic work and dedication of the care home staff, who had to step into the role of teacher and guide the learners through the sessions; it was a real team effort!
Community Learning Curriculum Manager Sarah Hemmings commented: We were all so impressed with the artwork the learners had produced, and Tanya's efforts, especially at a time when they were cut-off from friends and family. We are grateful to West Berkshire Council for providing an opportunity to share this amazing work with the local community, and their support in creating the virtual exhibition.
Graham Bridgman, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Adult Social Care said: We're delighted to be able to support this wonderful project that illustrates, literally, that the benefits of creativity are absolutely boundless in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing. This is particularly pertinent at a time when so much else is restricted.
The virtual exhibition can be viewed on the West Berkshire Council website
To find out more about the creative options available at for adults take a look at our adult community learning page.