Art in Mind – Creating collaborative art for mental wellbeing

Elaine Naughton and Glenn Gibson, Art In Mind. Photos by Darachphotography

Elaine Naughton and Glenn Gibson, Art In Mind. Photos by Darachphotography

Have you ever lost track of time while you were doing an activity? You may have been troubled that day with any one of the trials life can throw at you, but all this faded into the background while you were engrossed in some activity or project. It may seem counterintuitive to solve an issue by not thinking incessantly about it, but sometimes you just need to let go and the answers will flow to you. In fact, this process is often called ‘flow state’, or can be referred to simply as being ‘in the zone’.

Quite often simply allowing yourself mental ‘space’ can give you a fresh perspective on an issue or situation and a creative practice is a great way to achieve this.

Galway sculptor Glenn Gibson, who discovered first hand in his own practice the benefits his creative outlet offered, began to formulate the idea of sharing this with as many other people as he could. He began a series of workshops teaching people to sculpt in wire but did not lecture about the calming benefits of the process, instead deciding to see if his students would arrive at this conclusion themselves. To his amazement, they did. And not just a few, but the majority spoke of how calming and relaxing the process was. So he decided to take it to the next level. Joined by artists Ronan Fahey and Elaine Naughton they founded Art in Mind.

The benefits of being creativew

The idea that being creative has health benefits, both physical and mental, is not a new one at all. In fact, there have been many studies carried out to back up this statement. Studies indicate that creative self-expression and exposure to the arts have wide-ranging effects not only on cognitive and psychosocial health, but also physical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, various forms of dementia and cancer. One of the most compelling studies was recently conducted by the Mayo Clinic and proposed that people who engage in art activities (painting, drawing and sculpting; crafts, like woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting, quilling and sewing ) in middle and old age may delay cognitive decline in very old age.

These findings underscore the idea that it is possible to build a “cognitive reserve” through engaging in novel, creative experiences that have a protective effect on the brain. According to the principle investigator, “Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age” (American Academy of Neurology, 2015 ).

Turner prize winner Grayson Perry sums it up beautifully, “Art helps us access and express parts of ourselves that are often unavailable to other forms of human interaction. It flies below the radar, delivering nourishment for our soul and returning with stories from the unconscious. A world without art is an inhuman world. Making and consuming art lifts our spirits and keeps us sane. Art, like science and religion, helps us make meaning from our lives, and to make meaning is to make us feel better.” Grayson Perry, Artist

Some 39,000 years ago our ancestors left their marks on cave walls to articulate the world around them in an attempt to communicate their environment. Creating is in our DNA, it has been as much a part of our development as science and religion have. In an increasingly isolating society, where we have become like slaves to technology, it is now more important than ever to put down our devices and come together to create not only art but real relationships with real people around a common purpose.

The Art in Mind collective are a non-profit organisation seeking to promote mental well being through artistic practice. This will be done through a series of exciting community collaborative art projects ranging from sculptural installations, murals and themed exhibitions.

Wire sculptures

Glenn Gibson says that in the build-up to our initial project called One they are honoured to participate in the First Fortnight Arts Festival in January. First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action.

“Through a series of workshops with community groups and organisations we will be creating a crowd of life size human sculptures from wire. Together with First Fortnight we will showcase a number of these figures during the Festival at the Town Hall Theatre and NUIG from January 3 to January 17. These emissaries are harbingers of a fully immersive experience that delve into the universal sensation of being in a crowd but feeling lonely or isolated, while offering a shift in perspective to realise we are all connected.”

They are now in the early stages of creating this first project and have already secured the support of local businesses and individuals.

Elaine Naughton, Programme Director said that everyone they speak to about the project agrees it is going to be something special for communities in Galway. I

“It is participative, inclusive, immersive. It has the potential for Galwegians to come together to build one of the largest sculpture installations ever created in Ireland, and so far, we are really appreciative of our new partnerships with The Huntsman Inn and PFH Technology Group”.

Paul Callaghan, CEO says PFH are delighted to be involved with Art in Mind.

“Mental health and wellbeing are topical subjects in society, we are happy to support such a worthy cause. With the partnership we have agreed, our employees will get to attend a team building workshop where they will help to build one of the sculptures to be included in the exhibition, giving them the opportunity to be part of something amazing,” he said.

However, to get the project off the ground, they need more companies and organisations to get involved. In return for the support they are offering bespoke artworks and team building workshops highlighting the benefits a creative practice can have as well as brand placement and promotion.

For individuals or community groups interested in participating in workshops please visit for schedule of activities. Businesses interested in partnerships can email [email protected] or phone Glenn on 091 728622

You are not alone; we are one. The gathering crowd is coming soon.


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