Art & Shine impact of week 1

I was delighted to have recently been asked to support Shift Makers’ programme of confidence-building workshops ‘Art & Shine’, which combines art-making with learning and aims to build confidence through creative practice.

Shift Makers was founded by Prith Biant and offers training and development opportunities to help people make a positive shift in their lives and become empowered through creativity. In keeping with their ethos, I was thrilled to have been invited to be part of the Shift Makers’ journey and to have the opportunity to invest in my own interest developing my expertise in this area.

There is a growing body of evidence which recognises the value of creativity in many facets of life. The speed at which technology is evolving means that many areas of traditional work are fast being replaced by automated machinery, and yet there are (reassuringly!) some areas that computers cannot yet successfully replicate – and one is in the wonderful open-book that is the human endeavour in creativity and arts. Creativity is therefore of huge value to the economy as it enables us improve our collaborative and partnership working as part of a more social economy, and meet the needs of a society with an increasing thirst for innovation.

Furthermore, and particularly pertinent to the workshops run by Shift Makers, there is a growing body of evidence which shows the significant positive impact that creativity can have on health and wellbeing. Embedding the arts into our lives can help us to have stronger immune systems, be more resilient, caring, altruistic, more socially engaged and more successful in our own lives – helping us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

During the 2-hour session on Tuesday, we were invited to decorate a plain cardboard box using as many elements taken from a wonderful collection of craft pieces as we wanted…the excitement in the room was palpable and the sense of relief that there was no ‘form filling’ seemed to dance across the room.  Though we entered the room as strangers we were able to leave with the sense that we had shared something quite special, as talk during the session flowed naturally and evolved organically.

It is Prith’s ability to step-back from the role of ‘teacher’ to one of facilitator – gently and deftly guiding the discussion in order to approach what can sometimes be challenging themes, but encouraging participants to really direct the flow of the session – that makes these workshops so unique. The method of sharing a creative experience which allows participants to focus their energies on something that is fully within their control (quite literally in their hands) opens up – as one participant put it – the opportunity for more ‘genuine and real conversation’. There is a real beauty in a process that allows us the freedom to express ourselves as individuals and yet at the same time talk about commonalities and shared experiences in a safe and trusted space.

The benefit of allowing people the opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem (as well as a host of additional skills – such as communication, team-work and leadership) in their own time and at a pace that develops almost as its own entity is invaluable.

20160614_142244[1]Everyone was invited to share their finished piece at the end, and the diversity within the group was amazing – everyone had come at the task in their own way and with their own reasons behind the design. From beautiful, personalised boxes for daughters which embraced the idea of loving the skin you’re in, to adorned boxes to keep treasured keepsakes – you could see that each participant really valued and took pride in the art that they had created.

Enthusiasm for the next sessions was high, with much of the content finalised from input taken during the workshop – ensuring that it is ‘owned’ by the participants as much as possible. As one participant put it at the end of the session, they were leaving the room feeling like they were amongst new friends. If that is what can be achieved in 2 hours, I cannot wait to see what can take place over 4 weeks.

Laura Davies