Evidence of impact
Case Studies – What Artlift Participants Say
Create Well participant, 2022
We spoke to Peter about his Artlift experience. He attended two Artlift courses, one in Stroud (painting, photography and drawing), then a second in Cirencester (altered books). Here Peter describes how it felt getting to the courses:
‘On the day of the course it could be a challenge to get out of the house, as I will avoid going out if I can, but if I’ve made a commitment to do something, I will go, even if it feels a bit more difficult. I knew the regularity and routine of attending an Artlift course would make a helpful anchor point in my week.’
He goes on to explain how Artlift helped him:
‘Artlift helped to reduce my feelings of isolation; I got to speak to other people, which in turn helped to build my confidence. It’s improved my mood, it felt good to be doing something. It undoubtedly helped with managing my anxiety & depression, and also improved my sleep patterns.’
‘Attending Artlift certainly encouraged me to do things I haven’t done for a long time, if ever. I was committed to the course, and started to look forward to it, even buying additional arts materials with the intention of continuing at home and during the week between each Artlift session (though tutors were already very supportive in providing loans of equipment, without which the impact of the course would have been significantly lessened). Carrying on with art during the week gave a focus for my attention which helped to regulate my anxiety. Artlift also gave me something positive to talk about in phone calls with my family, which made these conversations easier for me.’
‘Having participated in Artlift, I now feel more confident to engage with other social activities for which, happily, there is now greater opportunity, following the lifting of covid restrictions. I recently attended a reunion meet-up with other participants from my Artlift course, and am hoping that we will have more of these in future. I feel that Artlift has improved my mental health and has made life easier for me.’
As we chatted Peter told us:
‘Artlift was transformative; I felt able to breathe again. I was glad to have been given a place on the course, and felt a commitment to it.’
Peter also explained how attending Artlift helped him to feel better alongside using CBT and mindfulness practice skills:
‘The approaches in an Artlift course are much less direct and are of lower intensity than those in counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (both of which have been helpful to me in the past). At Artlift I was enabled to engage with an activity that has no direct focus on my health condition, in a low pressure, supportive environment. This made Artlift a more enjoyable, and less challenging experience, although having the confidence to expose my creative skills (or lack thereof) to others, some of whom had rather greater ability, was a challenge in itself!’
‘Artlift gave me a focus through which I could reflect on, and apply, some of the tools I had received from CBT as well as “Mindfulness” practice. I am still dealing with anxiety on a daily basis, but things have improved. I try to set myself achievable challenges, to recognise that sometimes the greatest benefit is to be had by tackling them even when I feel least like doing so, and to forgive myself when I do not manage to do so.’
Finally Peter said:
‘If I was talking to someone thinking about attending Artlift, I would say: If you think that this is something that you might enjoy, then give it a go. If you decide to do so, then the more you engage with it, the greater the likely benefit you will experience. It has been very helpful to me.’
Create Well participant, 2022
Adrian lives in the Forest of Dean with his wife Fiona and their 12 year old son. Adrian attended the Artlift course Altered Books in Cinderford over two ten-week terms.
Adrian was referred to Artlift by his mental health team in 2021 to help him manage long standing anxiety, depression, agrophobia and PTSD.
Previously, Adrian – a forces veteran – had not left the house for six years and was struggling with isolation and OCD, resulting in compulsive cleaning that was becoming increasing hard to live with. Adrian’s family have been right behind him attending Artlift, with Fiona persuading him that this would be worth at least giving it a go!
Adrian hadn’t done any art since leaving school 30 years ago. Whilst he enjoyed art at school, he remembers it was something you werent really encouraged to do.
I highly recommend Artlift
Using techniques I’ve learnt, I can do my own thing and make my own rules. I can express myself in my own way using my own mix of medium
On day one of the Artlift course Adrian recalled feeling nervous, thinking “I cant do this’” and wondering “what was the point”? However, he decided he wanted to see the course through, reminding himself he wasnt “a quitter”. He said he started to realise that ‘being creative was begining to help with managing my OCD’, and it helped that the artist faciliating the course could give him extra work to keep him going during the week.
Amy Freeman, Adrian’s Artist Facilitator, taught him many new creative techniques such as lino cuts, marbling, tie dying, and carving stamps but Adrian’s favourite was image transfer printing. Adrian explains that this “ignited a creative spark!”
Meeting in a local cafe (something that would have previously been impossible), Adrian and Fiona told me about the positive impact attending Artlift has had on Adrian. Fiona describes how they now “sit at home as a family, talk more and make art together’ and that, despite being a strong couple already, their relationship has strengthened after a very tough 12 months”.
Adrian went on to say that attending Artlift gave him numerous benefits in many areas of his life – he felt “part of a team”, that it have given him “a purpose”, and that his confidence grew. After just one course his medication was reduced, he was no longer in active therapy and had been discharged from the mental health team back to his GP.
Crucially, Adrian points out that attending Artlift got him out of the house and made him “feel better”, he now feels “much happier” in himself. He reported walking up to attend the courses was
“the first time I’d been out in the town I’ve lived in for the last 7 years”.
Adrian also told me:
“My son and I created art together just this weekend, something we would not have done before Artlift. We have as laugh together, that’s what it’s all about.
There’s no right or wrong, as long as we have fun”
Adrian said that, longer term, he plans on continuing to develop his arts practice, ‘to keep moving forward and feeling better’, but also as it has opened up a new avenue for him.
With Fiona keeping him in a constant supply of art materials and enthusiasm, Adrian is working on getting a portfolio of work together.
Living Well with Chronic Pain participant 2021
Clare from Cheltenham was referred to Artlift by Gloucestershire Hospitals’ Pain Management team to help with managing her chronic and acute pain. At the time, Clare was using strong medication. She describes her chronic pain and how it affects her as a “deep 24/7 background pain which can quickly turn to a sharp pain”.
Here Clare explains to us what she found valuable about attending an Artlift course:
“Because Artlift offers actual physical and mental support, it meant I didn’t have to worry about medication, for example, making me feel unwell or tired, or worry about side effects.
It gave me energy, enthusiasm, provides excitement & is engaging.
We did different things weekly and could take stuff home and carry on with it. Artlift is so important – I didn’t know this until I took part in a course.”
Attending Artlift gave me support and fun at a time when I wasn’t having fun at all
Pre-Covid, Clare was working – something she says gave her life structure. She then retired. With Covid hitting, retirement and other large issues all coming at the same time, Clare had a lot to cope with. She is a carer for her husband and they were both vulnerable during the pandemic. Clare explained:
“I was always Plan A and, after getting exhausted, I was too tired to get around my challenges to find a Plan B…Not working left me with no discipline, and I was left floating. I am the sort of person that needs discipline in their life.
“I was frightened to death about attending due to Covid-19. However, when I attended I felt safe, so with Artlift I was given structure & discipline back again.”
Being a creative person Clare needed little persuasion to attend Artlift – she was able to draw on her existing creative skills as well as set herself challenges in trying something new. She described how during the sessions they would learn and carry out the making together. Then, during the week she would do more research and work independently, using it to “take my mind off things and escape”, particularly enjoying puppet making, making a theatre box, and Japanese book binding!
“What was important is that I felt safe. We laughed a lot in the group; both the artist and the volunteer were kind, considerate and naturally giving. They didn’t make me feel stupid. People can hurry you & get cross when you’re unwell and that can make you feel stupid.”
Whilst attending her 10-week Artlift course, Clare – who describes herself as “not a particularly sociable person” – and her fellow participants discovered that “…having something to do, to share with, & for, others is important for everyone and that’s what Artlift gave us, along with the importance of valuing myself”.
She plans to continue making art as in her words “it allows me to forget my pain by pushing it into the subconscious….Doing art keeps my general pain muted – I’m able to go deaf to it”. Describing how important it is to her Clare says “Artlift gives people a bit of themselves back, finding confidence and helping strength to return”.
“I feel so lucky to have attended this programme, to re-start the rest of my life. Artlift gave me belief again on so many levels. I have reached out to other people by joining the Facebook Artlift Move On hub. Having something in common with other people is really helpful.”
Looking forward, Clare has set herself another creative challenge: joining a course called Adventures in Acrylics. She laughed “I don’t like acrylics or abstract art, so am finding a new admiration for abstract… this was a new challenge for me and I’m getting through it!”
Summing up the importance of her Artlift experience Clare states:
“Artlift is about all-encompassing wellbeing, health treatment is not only about medication; the aftercare is important too. Artlift brings back the humane and social interaction. It’s false economy not to do something like Artlift”.