Art | Over 600 works created in lockdown will form new exhibition to highlight the power of art on health & wellbeing

The UK’s largest multi-arts centre, the Southbank Centre in London, today announces a five-month touring exhibition, which will bring over 600 pieces of artwork created during lockdown out of the shadows and into major UK venues to showcase the power of art on health & wellbeing during the pandemic.

The ambitious project is the culmination of the Southbank Centre’s landmark Covid-19 initiative, Art by Post which since it started in May 2020 has provided over 4,500 people at risk from social isolation, loneliness and digital exclusion with free cultural activities. 

Art by Post: Unlocking creativity for our wellbeing will celebrate the power and potential of the role of creativity in people’s lives, their health and wellbeing. It will open on 20 September 2021 before touring the length of the country.

It comes as the Southbank Centre announces its ongoing strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP). This relationship began in June 2019 when the body was formally launched at the Southbank Centre by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. By the end of the year the body will be based at the site, enabling it to carry out urgent work in this area – the need for which has been exposed by the pandemic. 

The Academy aims to champion the value of social prescribing by demonstrating the power of the arts, culture, sports, leisure and the natural environment in connecting people and communities. Working with its Thriving Communities programme, online masterclasses for community groups will be held across the country, showing how Art by Post can be emulated by community groups elsewhere, and build local momentum for social prescribing.

The new exhibition is being supported by 13 strategic partners and a further 156 delivery groups nationwide. Touring sites include: Banbury Museum & Gallery, The Mill Arts Centre (Banbury), Arts Centre Washington, HOME Manchester with two further venues to be announced. Additional strategic partners include organisations in the health and social care arena; they will help sustain deep community engagement as the project continues to be rolled out to participants. These are Age UK Oxfordshire & Camden, artsdepot, Beacon Arts, Dulwich Picture Gallery, NAPA Arts in Care Homes, Nightingale Hammerson, Philharmonia Orchestra, HOME, Platform, Kings College Hospital Trust, Sunderland Culture and The Barn. 

An online exhibition will launch at the same time to showcase the poignant creative responses to Art by Post, connecting those who are continuing to shield, or who are unable to travel, to the regional touring sites. Meanwhile, pop-ups at major NHS Hospital Trusts and care settings nationwide will bring the exhibition back to local communities. 

Curated by Persilia Caton, the exhibition will showcase creative responses to the commissioned activity booklets organised by themes such as: nature, hope, sound and movement. Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, together the artworks celebrate creativity and resilience.

The success of Art by Post marks a major milestone in the Southbank Centre’s ambitious Arts and Wellbeing programme, formally launched at the venue’s Creative Health Conference in June 2019 which brought together artists, practitioners, funds and policy makers in the arts and health sectors. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rebecca Pow, then Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism and Simon Stevens CEO of NHS England were all speakers.

The Southbank Centre will continue to make the case for arts-on-prescription, building on growing clinical evidence of the benefits that arts can bring to health and wellbeing. It remains committed to presenting an annual conference around Arts and Health as well as delivering a year round Arts and Wellbeing programme offer.

The programme will be supplemented by a six-month international campaign to showcase the Southbank Centre’s role in delivering game-changing arts and cultural initiatives that promote positive health and wellbeing outcomes.

This includes:

A physical presentation of Art by Post at the World Health Organisation’s upcoming International Arts and Well-being exhibition in Geneva

‘VERSUS’ exploring the theme of resilience from 7-25 June 2021

A UK-wide poster and bus stop campaign showcasing Art by Post participants via specially commissioned portrait photography alongside project poetry in September 2021

A special commission as part of National Day of Arts in Care Homes to be announced, also in September, and continued activity as part of the Mayor of London’s Dementia Friendly Venues Charter.

Conceived at the 1951 Festival of Britain it was, at the time seen as a tonic for the nation’s wellbeing through to the present day, the Southbank Centre has long been an advocate of the role of the arts and culture in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Click here for more information on the exhibition

Click here to find out more about The Southbank Centre

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Image credits: brushes -Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash / painted hands-Photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash / Thumbnail – Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash / Artist – images provided by the Southbank centre

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