BluSCI Thinking At Sale's Waterside Art Centre

By Alice Kershaw | 27 November 2006
photo of an eldery man and woman who are leaning towards each other with their foreheads touching

Shot from the Brook Heys Later Life Ward by Nudrat Azra. Courtesy bluSCI/Nudrat Azra

Sky View: Art Work With blueSCI is a community art exhibition that offers an insight into the way creative engagement can have a positive impact upon peoples’ lives.

Running from November 25 until January 20 2007 at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Greater Manchester, it showcases recent work carried out by blueSCI at their Broome House centre in nearby Trafford.

BlueSCI are a not-for-profit organisation working with individuals who have experienced emotional or psychological difficulties, promoting their recovery through social engagement and creative activities. These encourage participants to build up self-esteem and foster a sense of achievement.

Their slogan is ‘enhancing wellbeing through creativity’, and this exhibition shows the physical artistic results of this strategy.

Speaking at the show’s private view, Stuart Webster, blueSCI’s director, said that the organisation’s aim was to reveal “the creativity we all have within us” but which does not always have the opportunity for expression. He described how personal creativity is not just about art and craft, saying, “creativity can be as much about tending an allotment as creating a piece of art”.

BlueSCI’s work is chronicled through Nudrat Afza’s photographs, showing the relationship between patients and staff at Brook Heys Later Life Ward in Broome House.

The photographs capture personal moments of interaction between individuals and have a slightly unsettling intensity about them. Vividly shot they have a documentary feel providing a counterpoint to the gallery’s other smaller photographs.

photo of a circular wicker work object with pieces of coloured fabric woven into it

One of the exhibition's intricate wicker 'webs'. Photo Alice Kershaw/24HM

These smaller pieces are much more personal in tone and were taken by the staff, volunteers and participants themselves at many different blueSCI locations. They show the organisation’s everyday work like music and craft classes, dance, computing, and social interaction, including the making of the sound installation and wicker art in the gallery.

Hung along the back wall of the gallery are seven pieces of wicker art, called the ‘webs’, which were created in a workshop run by artist Avril Clarke. The large circular pieces were hand-made by participants who interwove the wicker with coloured cloth they chose to reflect their mood.

These pieces are visually striking and merit close inspection to see the handiwork involved in their production. Although sturdy wooden craft pieces the interlacing of the delicate cloth and wool gives them a fragile air.

A sound installation sits in a partitioned area of the gallery. Cloaked entirely in darkness except for some small lights, the slightest pressure of a visitor entering and walking around the space triggers sounds to be made. By taking different routes around the gallery the visitors create their own composition.

All the sounds were created in workshops run by Andrew Hodgson at blueSCI’s Seed Music Studios, and participants learnt the importance of creating music to what Andrew describes as ‘strict chordal rules’ so that all sounds, whether vocal or instrumental, would not sound discordant when played in any combination. The sensation of walking around the space is at first quite disconcerting but the concept is certainly innovative and entertaining.

The exhibition is enlightening, informative and moving, and clearly shows the role cultural engagement can play within psychological recovery, highlighting the importance of art and creativity to good mental health.

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