Everything you ever wanted to know about Arty-Folks and were not afraid to ask.
How do I complain if I am unhappy about something?
Staff will provide you with a complaints procedure. We suggest that in the first instance you talk to staff and if the issue cannot be resolved in this way you can send a letter or e-mail to the Board of Trustees at the Arty-Folks address. They will receive your complaint within the week and one of the Trustees will contact you to arrange a meeting to which of course you can bring a friend or support worker. At the meeting you will be able to talk openly and honestly, and everything will be treated confidentially.
Is Arty-Folks any different now?
Arty-Folks has remained true to its guiding beliefs and founding principles but what we offer is today more focused and structured to make a positive impact on mental well-being. We now offer Art as Therapy through a number of groups that are structured into stepping stones to recovery, still starting with Gateway group Wednesdays 12.30-2.30 at the Artspace Studios, 16 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry CV1 3AU
What was Arty-Folks like at the beginning?
Arty-Folks ran a pilot project July ’96 to October ’97, which was hugely successful. It showed that there was a need for a recreational and therapeutic arts, for an environment in which people can talk openly and honestly about issues affecting their lives while being creative. Founding members set the underlying principles of Arty-Folks which are:
– to focus on the visual arts and engage only workers trained in the arts.
– activities need to be fun, uplifting, rewarding, achievable, enjoyable, and support
people on their recovery journey.
– to remain two steps removed from the mental health system, to nurture recovery,
and to serve as a bridge into people’s chosen path.
– to work for people recovering from mental health concerns only.
– to support people to break out of their isolation and to regain self-respect.
– to be user led with a Team of Trustees made up of members, ex-members and
other people who have experienced mental stress.
– to be informal in all its dealings and to avoid an ‘us-and-them’ within the group.
– to establish a dynamic and positive atmosphere and never become a ‘moan and groan group’.
When did Arty-Folks start and why?
The idea to create Arty-Folks came in a discussion between an artist and a person suffering with schizophrenia. At the time, November ’95, there were no independent user groups and people felt stuck in the system. There was a lot of anger and fear towards the Mental Health system, and people felt there was nothing positive happening. Arty-Folks was set up to serve as a half-way house, to bridge the gap between dependency on services and ‘normality’, whatever that is. Arty-Folks has since remained grounded in the Arts, two steps removed from the mental health system.
What is the Artspace building?
The Artspace is managed by a separate organisation, the Artspace Artists. We hire their community room for our Wednesday workshops and we are not there any other time. The building is believed to have been at some point perhaps a police station, a school, a hospital, nobody really knows. We know for certain that it used to be the Quakers Meeting Hall, then became the Holyhead Youth Club, and that the Specials used to practice in the basement.
How is Arty-Folks funded?
We spend a lot of time writing funding applications because this is our main source of income. Arty-Folks is accountable to funders who want us to achieve maximum social return on their investment. We keep overheads (office, bills, etc.) very low and we spend every penny wisely and on activities with our members. We are very grateful for individual donations that help us continue our work.
What are Arty-Folks dreams and ambitions for the future?
Our ambition is to develop what we do into the most effective remedy for mental ill health. Now and in the future we want to be there for you, and to walk alongside you on your journey to recovery. We want to support you proactively but not in a one-suits-all fashion. We know without a doubt that everyone can recover from mental stress and illness, and that it is just a matter of determination, learning, and time.
What is Arty-Folks’ view about medication and the medical profession?
Yep, tricky question, but it has to be asked. We believe that everyone in the field is genuinely trying to help people who are going through a terrible time. But we also believe that it’s your life and ultimately you carry the responsibilities for decisions affecting you. So it’s up to you if you take your medication or not, whether you engage in therapies or seek alternatives. Having said that, it is helpful to take medications at least for a while but in the long run pills may not provide the answer. We know that talking openly about experiences and feelings as well as listing to other people’s experiences is much more beneficial and life changing.
Who makes decisions and how? What skills do they bring to Arty-Folks?
Decisions that affect Arty-Folks as a whole are made by the Board of Trustees at bi-monthly meetings. 50% of Board members are current service users and the other half members have elected for their particular business skills at the Annual General Meeting. Day-to-day decisions are made by our small but dedicated team of staff and Peer Volunteers.
So is it open to anyone then?
No. We can only offer a place to adults of working age 18-65 with a current psychosocial mental illness. Our activities are not suitable for people in crisis, with dementia, people with special educational needs or autism, or people with alcohol or drug dependence. Other local specialist agencies support these client groups and we will not duplicate their work. When you start Gateway group we will discuss with you if we can meet your needs. If we believe our service is not suitable for you we will give you information about other opportunities that you might benefit from. You can also check on our website directories of activities in Coventry that are openly accessible to everyone.
Do I have to be referred or have been in the mental health system to be allowed to come?
No, not at all. You don’t have to have had a complete mental breakdown to be able to attend. In fact, it’s better if you come before! If you realise that you are experiencing mental stress you might find it beneficial to join a group like ours. Some people picked up a leaflet at their GP or library, some have heard through word of mouth, some through the mental health system. Either way, we do not require any formal referrals, and you don’t have to tell us what your particular problem is.
How long can I come to Arty-Folks?
That depends on many different factors such as how your personal recovery journey develops, your openness to learning and embracing new ideas, your future aspirations, etc. Generally, we see that two years of regular attendance puts people back on track but of course sometimes it takes longer. Staff will discuss every 3 months with you what has changed and where you want to go next, and will make sure we are all working together to put you back on your feet.
Are there any exams or assessments?
No, never, thank you very much! We want to experience the pure exhilaration of art without bureaucratic nonsense! Well, seriously, we believe that art can’t really be quantified as such and is about the exploration of self, rather than meeting some criteria.
Do I get to keep my art work?
Yes, of course. We take a digital photo and add it to your portfolio on our computer. You can then have your artwork back for you to keep. You can have a copy of your digital portfolio which you can use to apply for further art courses, or just for yourself.
What’s the atmosphere like during workshops?
Definitely not like school! You can feel safe to talk about anything of concern to you or just focus on your work. You can join in the general banter and debates, and everyone will respect it if you want to switch off or just listen. We usually have a laugh, and we talk about problems in a ‘normal’ way. The atmosphere is generally very informal and relaxed. It feels good to be part of a community of people and it can help to lift that heavy cloud.
Who is at the workshops?
There are usually about 8-12 participants, the artist, staff and volunteers. It is difficult to predict how many people will be present and it can feel a busy until everybody has settled in with their artwork which never takes long.
Who is running the workshops?
The workshops are led by professional visual artist with a completed University Degree in the Arts, usually Fine Art. We want artists to bring their own particular expertise and approach to the table, and to support you to develop your art skills and widen your understanding of modern art. We often have art students from CovUni volunteering with us to gain teaching experience and we expect them to share their own arts practice with us. We don’t usually take student volunteers of other faculties unless they practice art and they have a personal mental health experience. Arty-Folks focuses completely on the Arts, so there is no medically trained staff in the room.
Do I have to book a place?
We do not take bookings but as long as you come on time we will do our best to make space for you. Just turn up on a Wednesday 12.30pm on time and you can start with us straight away.
Can my support worker/CPN come with me?
Of course, but we will ask them to get stuck in if there’s space at the table. Many support workers actually love the opportunity to do some artwork and you might find it hard to get rid of them!
What happens when I arrive on a Wednesday?
We will introduce you to everyone but you’ll be glad to hear we don’t expect you to know everyone’s name straight away. We will get you a seat and simply get you started with the activity. A member of staff will later have a chat with you and take your details if you want to continue with us. If you feel that Arty-Folks is not for you that’s absolutely fine but please tell us so we can help you to find a group/activity that suits you.
How come you don’t always answer the phone?
Our small team of staff and Peer Volunteer cannot always get to the phone particularly when we run our groups. We appreciate it is difficult to leave a message on our answerphone but you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 074 436 436 34 and we promise to get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding.
Can you help me to get to Arty-Folks?
No, we do not give hands-on support to attend. Arty-Folks should be part of your own recovery journey, and making it to the workshops out of your own steam is a successful step in that direction. But, if you would prefer to attend the first session with a friend or support worker please feel free to bring them with you.
Does it matter whether I’ve done any art before?
No, we welcome total beginners to art students and professionals in the field. Most people haven’t done any art since school and often didn’t have the best experience there. Others already have a good grounding in the arts or work as Illustrators, Graphic designers, etc., but you don’t need any previous experience to join. What matters is that you are open to try new things and to enjoy yourself while being creative in a group.
Is it like art therapy?
The way we do art is very therapeutic but it is not art therapy. Art as therapy looks at a person’s ill health and is generally used as treatment for something. We do not focus on exploring what has made you ill but on rediscovering your skills, abilities, and personal qualities that will help you to grow within and beyond what has happened, and to find a new sense of self, meaning, values, and purpose in life.
What kind of art will I do?
We work as a group so we can learn from each other and be inspired by each others work. You will be able to work with clay, paints, plaster, wax, charcoal, glass, wire, etc. and we show you how to experiment and stretch your skills. For example with clay, we show you how to do a thumb pot, but what you turn it into is up to you and we will encourage you to use your imagination. Typically, we all work with the same materials for 4-6 weeks and then move to the next project together.
What makes Arty-Folks special?
People who have attended Arty-Folks and then moved away told us how much they struggled because they couldn’t find another group that offers friendship, acceptance, anchoring, optimism, personal and artistic challenges, honest and open discussions and debates about anything human, and with such an amazing range of high quality art activities. But most of all they tell us that what makes Arty-Folks special and what they miss the most is the people in the group.
What does Arty-Folks offer me?
Arty-Folks is more than just making art: we offer you a safe environment where you can be yourself and don’t have to put on a mask (unless we make one of course☺). We accept each other as we are, and we respect each other’s space. We are keen to learn from each other, to have a laugh, to talk about anything of interest. Making Art is a positive activity that offers you bite-size challenges to increase your personal strength. Over time we hope you will be able to reclaim self-esteem and self-confidence, and develop a lust for life.