Ways of seeing evaluation
- Publisher: Brunel University
Copyright @ 2011 Brunel University
This report summarises the evaluation of Ways of Seeing, a community arts project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and hosted by the Lightbox, Woking, Surrey from 2008-11. The people involved have had remarkable experiences, choosing how to take part in each stage of preparations for a major public art exhibition. All those involved had disabilities, primarily arising from mental health issues but also including physical disabilities. The project was skilfully designed and led to enable them to make a significant contribution, enhancing their well-being and resulting in the Ways of Seeing exhibition which was widely appreciated. The Lightbox is an award-winning museum, housing a permanent local history exhibition as well as touring major art exhibitions. The Ingram Modern Art collection is on permanent loan, with regular exhibitions of work from the collection. Since the Lightbox opened in 2007, it has had a stated intention to promote local community involvement, successfully obtaining external funding to support this work. Ways of Seeing was the most ambitious project to date, aiming to exhibit selected work from the Ingram Collection alongside art created as part of the project by local disabled people. The emphasis on ways of seeing reflected an interest in their diverse perspectives, especially in relation to long term mental health problems. A steering group was set up, with members from local mental health initiatives and an evaluation team from Brunel University. The project started by orientating participants to how art is created and exhibited, with a series of visits and workshops on major art collections and artists’ studios. This stage successfully attracted a range of people and was followed by taster workshops of different art techniques. Then participants examined every item in the Ingram Collection and agreed a selection to inspire their own artistic responses. All-day workshops were convened, covering the same techniques as before and giving everyone space and time to get started. Curation of the exhibition gathered pace as final selections were made from participants’ art works and the Ingram Collection. The exhibition offered opportunities for everyone to have selections of their work exhibited to the public alongside the selected work from the Ingram Collection. A video artist captured the project in film and an MSc occupational therapy student from Brunel University undertook independent interviews of participants. It is clear that this multi-stage and carefully considered approach was highly successful in engaging people who are often excluded from arts events and venues. It was also successful in engaging the public in an innovative and thought-provoking exhibition, challenging assumptions about mental health and promoting the benefits of participation. The willingness of the Lightbox to host and support the project was essential. Based on tolerance, respect and a sympathetic curiosity, with clear and skilled leadership, the project enabled participants to make significant changes in their own lives.
This study was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.