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Gawler, South Australia

Most art classes might hope to unearth a talent, even genius. But at the Gawler Community House’s art therapy classes success isn’t measured by what is on the canvas. Community house coordinator Sharyn Guy said one of the high points of the class was one participant’s willingness to stay in the class alone, without a support person, because he said it was a “safe place to be”.

The art classes in 2017, run in partnership with MIND for people with mental health issues, have continued informally in 2018 with a volunteer.  The classes, which attracted people in their early 20s to people in their 50s, offered a form of psychotherapy, encouraging self-expression through painting, drawing or modeling.

“The classes are about much more than painting, they are about supporting the clients to participate in a process where they create something. Many people with a mental health problem can be isolated and we are trying to prevent that happening by encouraging new connections,” Sharyn said.

“Another important outcome is the capacity of people to begin and finish something. Often the lack of motivation makes it difficult to keep going. This is overcome in a class when the tutor and participants provide encouragement to each other.”

Sharyn said participants also learned about other classes and social opportunities at the Community House, such as cooking and computer classes. One participant is now enrolled in a different art class, with experienced artists who also sell their work.

“This project has the potential to improve a person’s quality of life by opening up other possibilities and networks,” Sharyn said.