Art for Mental Health: Unleashing Creativity in UK Schools

Along with running my art business, I have been busy volunteering and visiting schools to promote the peaceful practice of pastel art for our primary school students. The feedback has been so heartwarming and encouraging. I have been either independently sourced or worked with Centre for Leadership Performance to deliver workshops, motivational speeches and even judging a few competitions. In all of this, the need for arts in our schools is quite obvious as the children LOVE it! 

Pastels are the kindest of mediums! They are easy to work with. You can get a great effect with just a few techniques. It’s also very tactile, forgiving and versatile. I love to teach this to kids because they can’t believe how easy it is to learn and apply.

In the bustling world of education, where academic pursuits and standardised testing often dominate the scene, the arts are often relegated to the sidelines. However, there is a growing movement to recognise the profound impact of arts education on the mental health and well-being of children in UK schools.

The Power of Creative Expression

Art provides a safe and expressive outlet for children to explore their inner world, giving voice to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Through painting, drawing, sculpting, or playing music, children can process their emotions, develop self-awareness, and cultivate a sense of identity. When I visit the schools, I get 100% percent eager participation. This young generation was given access to the arts and crafts during lockdown and already understand that it makes them feel good. 

Art as a Stress Reducer

Engaging in creative activities has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in children. The rhythmic strokes of a paintbrush, the soothing melodies of a song, or the immersive process of sculpting can transport children into a state of flow, where worries fade away, replaced by a sense of calm and focus.

Building Resilience Through Art

Art cultivates resilience in children, equipping them with the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges. By persevering through creative endeavours, experiencing the thrill of failure, and discovering the joy of success, children develop a growth mindset and a belief in their own capabilities.

Fostering Social Connection and Belonging

Art provides a platform for social connection and belonging, addressing the prevalent issue of loneliness and isolation among children. Collaborative art projects, such as group performances, community murals, or shared creative endeavours, break down barriers, encourage teamwork, and celebrate diversity.

A Holistic Approach to Education

Arts education should not be considered an extracurricular activity but an integral part of a holistic approach to education. By incorporating arts into the curriculum, schools can create a more stimulating and engaging learning environment that caters to the diverse needs of learners.

A Call to Action

To ensure that all children in UK schools have access to quality arts education, there is a need for increased funding, professional development opportunities for arts teachers, and a shift in mindset towards recognising the value of arts in promoting mental health and well-being.

By prioritising arts education, UK schools can cultivate a generation of resilient, creative, and well-rounded individuals, equipped to navigate the challenges of life with confidence and a passion for self-expression. Let us champion the arts, not as an afterthought, but as an essential pillar of education, nurturing the minds, hearts, and spirits of the future. I am looking forward to meeting more children in the future. 

Pastels for Pain – Where it all Began

When I first picked up a pastel after years of aggressive pain medications, I quickly realised that all I really needed was my faculties back and a beautiful distraction.

Associate Artist Intake for 2022

It seems a while ago since we asked for applications from artists to become an Associate Artists & wow the applications came in thick & fast. So much so it took our Unison Helen a good while to get through them all.

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5 Responses

  1. Fantastic job you’re doing Emma. I agree completely with schools needing to encourage the Arts. If you haven’t already been sure to check out the late Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’ – it’s brilliant, funny and right on point.
    Thanks for your blog, Tricia

  2. As a primary school teacher ( now retired) I worked hard to ensure that creativity appeared on the timetable daily in the Reception class but found as the children went up through the school there wasn’t as much time allowed for art , music , dance. Sometimes the only painting drawing sculpting etc was confined to Friday pm and lost if there was catching up to do. Some children were always playing catch up and never got to do it! The best way to include creativity if no dedicated lesson time is planned is to do it through topics of history science geography or literacy./ maths. However allowing time to play explore and find out how to use different media in a more unstructured way would be wonderful.

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