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Art has the power to make you feel good

29th Sep 2019

Marilyn Scott, Director of The Lightbox in Woking, shares how her organisation has refined its core message – art has the power to make you feel good.

Nine months ago Marilyn and her team started to reflect on the key message of the charity and how they could best encapsulate all of the community engagement work that they provide through their Art and Wellbeing Programme. They recognised that although their exhibition programme is regarded for its quality, particularly with audiences from London and the South East, visitors are less aware of the crucial work The Lightbox does within the local community and that they needed to do more to raise its profile. The core messaging is now prominently displayed at the entrance to the building to demonstrate how central community engagement work is to their mission.

Since it opened in 2007, The Lightbox has worked with a broad range of people from under 5 to 95, providing a variety of services to meet their needs. They work with individuals who have acute needs including the homeless, Dementia sufferers, those with mental health issues, and PTSD sufferers. They provide special programmes designed for their specific needs working with experienced artists and practitioners. Their programmes alter dependent on changing needs, and they have more recently begun to work with isolated older people who are unable to visit the building by regularly visiting a number of local care homes.

One of Marilyn’s programme highlights was their first exhibition of artwork made by neurodiverse people that was staged in the main gallery space. It proved to be a really successful show and affirmed that an art gallery doesn’t have to just show high profile art but can equally present work made by passionate people who may never have had this type of experience before to positive reaction.

Driven by an increasing focus on the Health and Wellbeing agenda nationally, The Lightbox is refocusing what it offers the general visitor as well as those with more specific needs. One element of this is promoting the benefit that taking time in your lunch break to experience art can have on the reduction of stress and anxiety, as evidenced in the Art Fund Calm and Collected report in 2018. Marilyn feels that in today’s society we need to be looking more at prevention than cure, to look at ways to improve people’s quality of life beyond prescriptions, and that organisations such as The Lightbox can play a part in this.

All of their community programmes are free to participants, so The Lightbox has to undertake extensive fundraising work in order to be able to resource them and meet the demand. Their users have more than doubled in the past twelve years and most of their programmes are oversubscribed. They are calling for people who share their belief in the importance of this work, and have experienced the benefit, to support them so that they can continue to provide their essential programmes and make even more people feel good.

Image: Art in Mind session © The Lightbox.

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