It stemmed from a campaign that began in lockdown.
De Montfort University has been selected as one of six venues taking part in the nationwide tour of exhibition Art by Post: Of Home and Hope.
Launched in mid-September at the Southbank Centre in London, in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), the exhibition will be touring the UK from October.
Touring sites are: The Mill Arts Centre and Banbury Museum & Gallery in Oxfordshire, Arts Centre Washington in Sunderland, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury, HOME in Manchester and De Montfort University in Leicester.
In May 2020, Southbank Centre launched Art by Post, sending monthly creative booklets to 4,500 people across the country who were at risk from social isolation and digital exclusion during the pandemic.
Many participants were supported by friends, family members, neighbours, healthcare professionals and social prescribing link workers who were vital in referring people to the initiative and joining in with the activities themselves.
Alexandra Brierley, Director of Creative Learning, Southbank Centre, said: "Art by Post’s success is down to the participants who have given so generously to the project over the past 18 months and we are delighted to be able to showcase so much of their work in this one-of-a-kind exhibition.
"Art by Post is demonstrating the transformative power of art for health and wellbeing and, alongside the National Academy for Social Prescribing and over 160 partners, we will continue to make the case for enhanced community access and funding to it.”
Included in the packs were Freepost envelopes, encouraging participants to share their artwork with us. To date, over 40,000 booklets have been sent out and over 600 artworks sent back.
About the touring exhibition
Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, the new exhibition, curated by Persilia Caton and endorsed by international health bodies including the World Health Organisation, showcases the power of art on health & wellbeing and celebrates creativity and resilience of participants.
It draws on many of the themes included in the commissioned booklets, such as nature, hope, sound and movement.
With participants from Aberdeen to Bangor and Truro to Dover and aged between 18 and 103, the Southbank Centre looks ahead to taking Art by Post on tour to bring the work of participants back to local communities.
The tour will be supplemented by a UK-wide poster and bus stop campaign featuring specially-commissioned portrait photography of Art by Post participants.
Meanwhile, pop-ups at major NHS Hospital Trusts and care settings nationwide to sustain deep community engagement.
The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NSAP) has been instrumental in the roll out of Art by Post since the body formally partnered with the Southbank Centre in 2019.
NASP will be based on site by the end of the year, enabling both organisations to carry out urgent work in this area – the need for which has been exposed by the pandemic.
The Academy aims to champion the value of social prescribing by demonstrating the power of the arts, culture, sports, leisure and the natural environment in connecting people and communities.
James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said: “Arts can be powerful and meaningful for many, whether it’s taking part in an activity, learning something new or going to an exhibition.
"Art by Post engaged people in their homes, providing a way to feel connected to others. Social prescribing link workers can connect people to projects like this to support them alongside wider health plans.”
Working with its Thriving Communities programme, online masterclasses for community groups will be held across the country, showing how Art by Post can be emulated by community groups elsewhere, and build local momentum for social prescribing.
Art by Post is being supported by thirteen strategic partners and a further 156 delivery groups nationwide. Alongside the touring venues, additional strategic partners include organisations in the arts, health and social care space.
These are: Age UK Oxfordshire & Camden, artsdepot, Beacon Arts, Dulwich Picture Gallery, NAPA Arts in Care Homes, Nightingale Hammerson, Philharmonia Orchestra, HOME, Platform, Kings College Hospital Trust, Sunderland Culture and The Barn.
An Art by Post project participant, said: “Since starting the Art by Post and putting words down on paper, especially the poems, it seems to be much easier, you have brought out a part of me that has laid hidden for virtually all my life, so for that alone, I thank you.”
Darren Henley, CEO, Arts Council England, said: “We’ve invested in the National Academy for Social Prescribing since its launch, so it’s exciting to see how its work in partnership with the Southbank Centre is helping people across the country to lead happier, healthier lives by unlocking their own creativity.”
Art by Post: Of Home and Hope is open now at the Southbank Centre. Admission is free. Please visit their website for more information.
Written by Siddiqa Reininghaus
Siddiqa is a Feature Writer for Niche Magazine and Cross Productions with experience of working as a journalist and copywriter. She enjoys going to the gym, cooking, and binge-watching Netflix series.