- Date: 26 February 2014
- Artform: All
- Area: South West
National portfolio organisation Creativity Works has built an enviable reputation for exemplary work in socially engaged arts and delivery of creative projects that make a real difference to people's lives.
Over the past 30 years, Creativity Works has grown and developed from its roots as a forum for amateur arts organisations in Wansdyke to become a recognised arts development and delivery service working in three focused areas: Artists' Development, Health and Wellbeing, Community Art, and Creativity within Communities.
They work with people of all ages and backgrounds, creating sustainable projects with real impact for participants - and winning awards in the process. In the past 12 months the organisation has:
Across all strands of work, the central aim of the organisation remains to enable more people to access the arts, and to facilitate personal change in people's lives through sensitive creative projects.
Oliver Jones, Director, says: 'Creativity Works has proved itself time and again to be a company of true worth. We make a genuine difference to people's lives through creativity and engagement with the arts. Our process is built upon an expert training for artists in Socially Engaged Practice, and a thorough network of partners and collaborators, ensuring we are embedded within the communities that we work with. We inspire people to grow as individuals and as artists, leading to a myriad of positive changes for the participants, their families and their communities.'
Many of the projects run by Creativity Works are directly commissioned by local authority service arms, such as the Mental Health Creative Support Service delivered on behalf of Bath & North East Somerset Council's Adult Social Care and Housing.
The project supports people with mental health needs to take up opportunities in the community and supports their transition from the mental health service to community-based activities. Working with a range of strategic partners, Creativity Works supports artists and practitioners to lead groups in a variety of creative practices including writing, journaling, visual arts, digital arts, dance, craft and more, using them as catalysts to explore, develop and grow - and combat feelings of anxiety, isolation or stigma.
As well as raising self-esteem and confidence, participants are encouraged to develop the skills to run their own project, skills that are often directly transferable and improve workplace opportunities.
Philippa Forsey, Project Manager for Creativity Works, says: 'We spend a lot of time helping our groups to become self-sufficient with some progressing to become peer-led support groups, charities or social enterprises. It's based on the Expert Patient model, empowering the individual to play a part in managing their own lives and recognising that no one is better placed to support someone struggling with an issue like low mood or post-natal depression than someone who has experienced the same struggles.'
My Time, My Space does exactly that, working with women suffering from post-natal depression who are referred by health visitors and Children's Centres. With children being cared for by a professional crèche, the women have a safe place to do something that is just for them, explore their creativity and expression and make new friends in the process.
As with all Creativity Works' projects, artists create the space for participants to re-discover their sense of 'self' through a variety of creative activities. The majority of Creativity Works' artists are socially engaged practitioners, with an 'expanded repertoire', meaning they have the experience to offer support on an individual and group basis. Creativity Works invests in their artists through the Co/Create development programme, which offers artists training and professional opportunities as well as access to resources and work opportunities.
A Health Visitor always takes part to help support the group and answer any questions or concerns. One of the Health Visitors commented: 'I don't know why art works but I can see it in action. I can see the lifting of spirits. It has had so much impact on so many lives I just wish I could offer it to more women.'
The comment highlights a potential issue for arts organisations working on commissioned projects. Whilst Creativity Works' funding base is diversified, which makes the organisation stronger and less reliant on one source of income, budget cuts amongst service providers or a change in government policy can mean even successful projects are not re-commissioned or partners forced to withdraw support at a crucial moment. The Networks project working with difficult to reach groups of women involved with the Criminal Justice System or facing mental health issues was affected when partners had to withdraw and this affected the sustainability of the project and potentially lessened the impact.
Philippa Forsey knows that a strong buy-in from partners is crucial for successful funding bids and stresses that all partners must look to secure a lasting legacy. This means that she spends a lot of time 'banging on doors' to get the critical buy-in they need at every level, building the trust on both sides.
Philippa views Creativity Works' role to be that of a broker: 'We bring together the artist, culture, different organisations, the health and social care professionals and the participant/service user to enable ongoing support to strengthen relationships and signpost opportunities for everyone involved. The key outcome is for the participants in the group to develop the skills and expertise to continue meeting after the project itself is complete, becoming independent support groups and peer-led networks in the future. One of our groups is still meeting, with members supporting themselves and others, almost eight years on from the original project.
'The success of the projects we deliver depends upon the relationships we develop. We work for and with local communities to deliver specific community-led outcomes, arts in the public interest, art that matters.'
At a time when there is growing recognition of the arts and cultural sector's contribution to society beyond that of purely economic impact, Creativity Works is inspiring and empowering people through creativity and they have the evidence to prove it.