This year I had the opportunity to join the Whitworth Art Gallery’s learning and engagement team as the Arts for Health Programme Assistant. My role has been hugely varied and interesting to see all elements of learning and engagement (including but not exclusive to Arts for Health). However, my main role has been to assistant the Arts for Health Programme Manager, Wendy Gallagher, in the development, planning and delivery of the arts for health programme. This has included preparing for events for health care professionals, exhibitions, facilitating hospital based workshops and much more.

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Participant’s work

Most recently, I have been responsible for developing a public programme for an upcoming exhibition in the galleries collection centre. “Beyond Dementia” presents the lived experience of dementia, looking beyond the condition and demonstrating the positives in living with a terminal disease. For the past 12 weeks, we have been collaborating with Together Dementia, a Manchester based Dementia support charity, in running workshops for a mixed aged group of people with Dementia. We have been creating art through a variety of art disciplines that demonstrates lives beyond dementia diagnosis’ and we have created a huge body of work.  Myself and Matt, the Galleries Learning and Engagement coordinator, have facilitated each session and developed good relationships with all of the participants.

Throughout my time at the Whitworth, myself and Matt have worked closely with the arts for health manager in curating the exhibition which includes a select amount of works from the participants, yet also carefully chosen pieces from the Galleries outsider artist collection; one for each participant. The exhibition launches on Thursday 27th July along with the public programme which I have developed. This includes both public and staff Dementia Friend training, artist workshops and film showings. The programme includes workshops form each of the lead artists that we invited to facilitate sessions during the programme. Here we are hoping to give the public insight into the therapeutic potential of art activities whilst offering opportunities to the families of the participants the chance to “have a go” also. Adding to this, I am currently trying to organise an event for carers of families with dementia. Here i am hoping to offer a mindfulness on-going programme for which I will collaborate with other members of the engagement team to instate. However, here I am hoping to promote the importance of wellbeing for those that provide valuable care to those in need.

I am really honoured to have been involved in this programme and exhibition as the group participating truly are fantastic people who have demonstrated such enthusiasm throughout in the run up to the exhibition. Luckily, i have been given the opportunity to see the exhibition through to its launch and I cannot wait to see how it turns out!

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