The ‘What Lies Behind’ exhibition, a recent display in Newlyn Art Gallery, saw 10 patients from Morrab Surgery in Penzance select works of art from Arts Council national collection of more than 8,000 pieces.
The group were asked to choose pieces that reflected their personal response to the pandemic. The works on display included textiles, sculpture, prints and paintings by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Chila Burman.
The project came about during lockdown after Morrab Surgery’s social prescribing link worker Ellie Moseley realised that many of the patients in the practice that she was working with had an interest in the arts.
She reached out to local art institutions and contact was made with James Green, director of the Newlyn Art Gallery, who was keen to set up an exhibition that involved social prescribing and the local community. The gallery was looking to explore the potential of the Arts Council Collection to offer health and wellbeing benefits to local people.
‘The group already wanted artistic activities so all that was needed was facilitation on my part,’ Ms Mosely explained.
The patients selected the art works during a series of online meetings, which also provided key social outlets for the group.
Ms Moseley said the project had been ‘completely transformational’ for those involved. She said that one of the patients involved was ‘completely isolated and felt completely alone, friends all moved away. She’s come out of this project transformed, social, believes in her ability to fit in and has contributed massively to the project.’
Impact of social prescribing
Ms Moseley also highlighted the impact of the initiative on the practice and explained that staff at the surgery 'have started to become more aware of the support services that are available, while building up their own knowledge.’ She added that Morrab Surgery has now become ‘one of the higher referral partners’ to social prescribing initiatives as a result of the increase in awareness.
Meanwhile, the gallery has also benefited from the exhibition. ‘It’s well understood that participation in cultural activities can make people happier and more content. Here at Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, we are now building evidence that shows these tangible health benefits,’ Mr Green explained.
Ms Moseley said the practice is continuing to build on the success of the exhibition and expanding the range of social prescribing initiatives on offer. Ite currently provides free pilates, Tai Chi and yoga sessions and is in the process of developing a new project in partnership with the National Trust.
However, Ms Moseley warned that continued funding was vital to the ongoing success of projects such as this. ‘These are sustainable outcomes for the community and build new resources that will help beyond the lifespan of a single project,' she said. ' But we need to be given more chance to build those resources, otherwise it won't make any sustainable difference in the community.’