Learning Disability Awareness Week takes place from 14th-20th June and this year’s theme is art and creativity. For many people with a learning disability and their families, getting creative was a way to stay connected and positive through the challenges of last year.
Part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), the Art Hub is based at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth.
Made up of three artists and an activities facilitator, the Hub works with mental health service users with learning disabilities. They participate in a range of activities from traditional drawing and painting to digital art and animation, sculpture, creative writing and music.
Eric Rothwell, artist at the Hub, said: “Having a participatory art hub helps service users gain experience in many different art disciplines. Art gives them an opportunity to communicate, express themselves and learn and develop skills.
“Working on an art project gives service users a sense of achievement and helps give them a focus for recovery in a meaningful way.”
The work of the Art Hub has been a great success. Service user artwork has been on display in hospitals and galleries across the region. Their work has also been shown at exhibitions at Woodhorn Museum, BALTIC, Gateshead Library Gallery and London’s South Bank Centre, to name a few
Service users are referred to the Hub by the wards’ nursing or occupational therapy teams who feel they might benefit from doing something creative.
Work at the Art Hub is award-winning, with service users winning many Koestler Awards over the years. The awards celebrate all forms of art created by ex-offenders, secure patients and detainees. They aim to challenge negative stereotypes and help people lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts.
Eric added: “Recently, a service user won a gold award for drawing. This was done through perseverance and you could see a real development in his drawing over time. When he found out he’d won gold, he jumped for joy!”
CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services. Northgate Hospital is home to many of the Trust’s learning disability services as well as some mental health departments. It provides a range of services including medium and low secure, autism services and assessment and treatment for patients with learning disabilities.