Creating connections through art

How volunteering at Second Step creates hope and change, and in this case, an actual piece of artwork too!

It’s well known that the practice of expressive and colourful artmaking helps people – and communities – connect, engage and develop their wellbeing. This was one of the reasons why a recent volunteer project at our Community Rehabilitation Service in Bristol brought clients, staff and volunteers together to create a mural at Wellbridge House.

Peer Recovery Navigator Phoebe Horrocks, who led the project, said:

“Wellbridge House is a residential home where people are encouraged to work to identify and build on their own strengths and hopes. The inspiration for this project sparked from research into participatory arts for wellbeing within healthcare settings. Through discussions with staff and clients, a stencil was designed to fill a four foot by eight foot plywood canvas, and the painting commenced. It was a joy to be involved. Many clients were unfamiliar with spray-painting and were initially a little hesitant in their approach to creating. Through the use of an expressive design format, we encouraged clients to play, experiment, and unleash their inner creativity; forming a multi-layered, rich, evolving tapestry of images, symbols, and words.

After the canvas was well and truly filled, we peeled off the stencil to reveal the word ‘connection’, written across the piece, alongside the famous Bristol balloons and rolling hills.

Over a cup of tea afterwards, clients, Second Step staff and volunteers commented on the freedom they felt whilst expressing themselves, and some people were inspired to continue this work at home.

I am so happy with not only the result of this project, but the process of working as a community in connection with one another to create something beautiful.”

John, one of our volunteers, said:

“I started volunteering in 2020 when a friend of mine was hospitalised though due to extreme anxiety. He was a postman living on his own and Covid and other things got on top of him. I visited him and, amongst other things, shared my experiences when I was off work a few years ago due to stress. He seemed to gain a lot of strength from knowing he was not the only one and that I had got over it, gone back to work and now retired. I got such a buzz that I immediately Googled Bristol Mental Health and Second Step stood out as the sort out organisation that I would like to volunteer with. Phoebe soon shared with me her ambition to create this mural in an expressive art afternoon. It was great fun with some being hesitant at first then really going for it. It was a joy to be involved.”

Volunteer Coordinator Jackson Cox said:

“There was a nice feeling of creativity and community. As the artwork came together, I was happy to see how everyone had immersed themselves in the project and how much fun everyone was having. It goes to show how good having an expressive outlet can be for your wellbeing especially if you are collaborating with others. I think everyone involved considers themselves somewhat of an artist now too!”

If you’d like to volunteer with Second Step, find out more.

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