Art Saves Lives International is excited to have its first collaboration and art project with the young residents and staff at Bursledon House Hospital in Southampton, UK. The project was found by Lisa Reeve who then with Charlotte Farhan created a plan for an engaging art project where the children could express themselves by looking at their own identity.
ASLI were inspired to get involved in this Bursledon House provides a lifeline to young kids and teenagers with severe, complex and chronic medical problems. Using a caringly structured programme of treatment in a relaxed, non-medical setting, Bursledom House supports, cares for and manages the treatment of its vulnerable young residents (aged 0-16). The NHS-run organisation places paramount importance on residents’ physical, psychological, educational and social needs. ASLI were very excited by the project and feel passionate about the cause as we believe the need for vulnerable children and teenagers to have an outlet for their feelings is what creates a healthy mind and can aid in education when a child may be experiencing others challenges and disruptions in learning. We not only believe art has played a restorative, vitally important role in others and the children at Bursledon House but we also have our own personal experiences with how art can save your life by giving you a voice, which is why Charlotte Farhan and Lisa Reeve felt so motivated to give others what they have experienced while managing their own struggles with mental illness.
For Charlotte, this project is especially close to her heart. At the tender age of fifteen, Charlotte was placed in an adolescent psychiatric unit and attended a residential school in an NHS governed centre similar to Bursledon House. She remembers how scary this chaotic period of her life was for her, and how school was the last thing on her mind. But institutions like Bursledon House are essential in providing structure and routine for sick and vulnerable young children and adolescents during a difficult, traumatic time of great need. Charlotte found being able to still attend art, English and History classes a real release from her daily treatment. She relished the opportunity to learn these subjects, which provided relief and inspiration, instead of purely focussing on continuously feeling unwell. This ASLI project promotes the psychological need for creativity, playful learning and self expression through art as an activity or therapy. Each child being encouraged and motivated to produce their very own ‘Personality Portrait’: an abstract style of portrait that reflects their reflection of themselves. Allowing for self reflection and a better understanding of what they like and dislike about themselves and then educating them on how to deal with these feelings in a stable and positive environment. As a skilled SFX makeup artist and photographer, Lisa is also helping the children get into character for a poetry and performance art piece the children were inspired to do due to our visit. Deciding on an animal theme and taking on the identities of particular animals whilst performing a piece of poetry on the animal they represent. The project, lasting several months, is leading to a public exhibition of the children’s personality portraits in July 2014. The exhibition will include talks about the work of Bursledon House and ASLI. We also have a band, art activities, a raffle and an art auction.