Laurence Ward is the council's community art co-ordinator and he loves sharing his passion for art with our day service users.
“I run the community art project at The Bridge - one of the council’s day services for adults with learning disabilities.
People are referred to us by their social worker. They come to the studio and can try out a variety of visual arts activities - drawing, painting, printing, photography or digital art – whatever they are inspired to use.
The people who come here don’t need any experience in art. All we ask is they are interested and want to have a go. We do sometimes get people with a background in art but, more often than not, they have never done anything like this before.
There are other artists and groups based at The Bridge so our artists are working in the same venue as other creative people which can be very inspiring and helps to break down barriers and form friendships and support networks
We encourage people to experiment with lots of different media and find what they are good at and what they enjoy doing. It’s not an art class – it’s about finding your own style or way of creating. I am an artist by trade but I am here to support our service users not tell them what to do. We are all about valuing people and their work. We celebrate difference and encourage people to express themselves however they wish to.
Most people come to us once a week, either travelling independently or, if they are in supported living, they might be brought by a member of care staff. It’s not a structured course but we try to help people develop new skills over time. We work to build a new interest for them and encourage them to become more independent.
It is not just about experimenting with art - being creative can be very therapeutic. Taking part can decrease stress and anxiety and build confidence and self esteem.
Many of our artists have shown their work, whether in exhibitions in the local community or further afield where they have to compete with national or international artists. They have shown work in prestigious exhibitions in places such as Munich, New York, Glasgow and London. We also visit exhibitions to see other people’s work.
This gives our artists motivation and expands their horizons.
I find this work very rewarding - you can see how people benefit, improving their confidence and their lives through their achievements and their love of art.”