Art & Soul initially began as “We can draw!” art classes organised by Maggie Hughes to support her husband Trevor post-stroke. In 1998 the name of the group was changed to ‘Art & Soul’ and the project evolved to include adults with a range of mental well-being and coping challenges. At this time, and with almost half a dozen mental health and day centres currently running in Richmond Borough, a group of service users and supporters decided to organise an exhibition of participants’ artwork.
The committee applied for local funding, setting Art & Soul into motion, but unfortunately, the selected exhibition venue fell through and a scramble to find a new location ensued. As luck would have it, Teddington’s recently re-opened Landmark Arts Centre was available and provided the perfect (although then unheated!) venue for over 350 pieces of submitted art.
In the lead up to this first exhibition, our funding also allowed us to run a several expressive arts workshops. This meant that anyone who had not had a chance to make artwork for the exhibition could get involved; facilitating a theme of inclusiveness that has continued throughout our programming. Following on from the success of this first event, Art & Soul’s exhibitions and workshops moved to Orleans House Gallery.
Since then, we have had an exhibition of participant artwork at the Stables Gallery every two years as well as a range of pop-up exhibitions in and around the community. Our workshops gradually grew from 2-3 per year, to weekly during term-time. This launched our partnership with Orleans House gallery as a visionary development within the growing field of arts and well-being programming within a museum and gallery environment. Today, we are very proud to assert Art & Soul as a first mover in this fast-evolving and increasingly evidence-based field.
In 2015, we were invited to Whitehall to organise an art exhibition for World Mental Health Day. In 2017 Art & Soul presented Flow of Life, a short film on our programme directed by group member and Co-Chair of Trustees, Liz Sokoski, at the International Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference in Bristol. In June 2017, Art & Soul became a registered charity.
In 2018, Art & Soul’s weekly workshops moved to a fantastic new space at the Exchange Arts Centre.
In April 2018, Orleans House Gallery welcomed our 20th-anniversary exhibition Kaleidoscope to the Stables Gallery.