Monday, 11 May 2015

Starting in a new art group

Starting any new group is usually very exciting as well as nerve-wracking for survivors.  Before we start an art group at SECASA I try to meet up with all the participants – mainly to have a chat about the group and what they hope to get out of coming.  This time we spend together is helpful in us getting to know each other a little so that it is not quite so scary for a new participant to join the art group.

Over the years that I have been meeting participants before the art groups at SECASA I have noticed a few themes emerging.

Most of the people in the group love the idea of being creative.  But many think they are likely to be “hopeless” or “no good” or a “failure” at it.  This loss of self-confidence is one of long-term consequences of abuse.  I often see a little spark of self-belief and many have told me that they think they could be an artist, or get good at art if they were taught.  Most tell me that they would like to make something they feel proud of, to learn something new and get good enough to make something lovely for their homes.  This is why we take time to teach skills in art-making.

When I show the SECASA calendar I hear “oohhs and ahhs” about how beautiful the work is  but of course “I could never do that”.   New participants are really inspired when they learn that most of the work in the calendar has been made by people who, like themselves, were saying the same things at the start of their art group.


Another consequence of abuse is that many are lonely and isolated.   People who have been hurt by others often prefer stay away from any potential to be hurt again ... but this can mean they are lonely. One of the great comforts of being part of a SECASA group is knowing that there are other people in the group who have had a similar experience and will understand how they feel.

We focus our attention on art making – rather than talking – and many participants are really pleased to be able to do just something creative alongside other people.  After a while conversations open up and friendly exchanges happen between group members at a gentle pace.

The art groups have been a place where participants can learn to create, learn to relax in company, share and enjoy the company of others.   We always start slowly and gently, with a small project like these mosaic trivets (for putting hot things onto the table).

Anne Riggs
Project artist

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