Rethink Mental Illness: The InFinnity Project
28 April 2017
New project launched to highlight art as a therapy for mental health problems and raise funds for Rethink Mental Illness. The InFinnity Project celebrates the life of Finn Clark, a talented and award-winning illustrator who took his own life, aged 25.
“Legacy”, by Finn Clark
“To contemplate the art which others have made out of their sensitivity to beauty and mystery can be a powerful bridge back to stability. All good art is like a hand held out by a stranger, showing that you are never quite alone” – Libby Purves, speaking of The InFinnity Project.
The InFinnity Project celebrates the life of Finn Clark, a talented and award-winning illustrator who took his own life in late 2015, aged 25. He had been diagnosed some two years before this with a form of psychosis and depression.
The project is to be launched, with Finn’s family, by broadcaster Libby Purves during Mental Health Awareness Week on May 12th, and will seek both to promote art as a therapy for mental health problems and to raise funds for Rethink Mental Illness, a charity which already has a number of volunteer art groups up and running.
The launch, along with an art workshop, will be held at The Hospital Club, a hub for the creative industries in London’s Covent Garden. The project will run on an annual cycle and also has the support of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) and of the Adamson Collection, the largest UK collection of art produced by mental health service users, housed at the Wellcome Library.
The InFinnity Project will invite submissions from adults over the age of 18 who are living with some kind of mental health issues, whether diagnosed or not, and who are looking to use art as a way of dealing with these. It will ask them to respond to one or more of three themes, which will be announced at the launch, based on one of Finn’s works. Submissions can be in any medium, but must be submitted in digital format, and will be displayed on the Project’s social media platforms (see Notes). BAAT will also encourage its members to use the themes in their professional art therapy work with mental health service users and to publicise the project in places where they work.
Submissions will be collected until the end of September 2017, and the results of a judging panel in a number of categories will be announced on World Mental Health Day, October 10 2017. A number of entries will then be used to create greetings cards and other merchandise to be sold in aid of Rethink Mental Illness, including for the Christmas market.
An exhibition of entries will be staged in February 2018, when the next cycle of the project will be launched.
Speaking about the project, Libby Purves said that "Troubled young minds are often also creative minds, as we know from our own son Nicholas Heiney and his remarkable writings in his last years. It need not mean disaster: to contemplate the art which others have made out of their sensitivity to beauty and mystery can be a powerful bridge back to stability. All good art is like a hand held out by a stranger, showing that you are never quite alone."
Trina Whittaker, a Rethink Mental Illness volunteer who runs an art therapy group for the charity in Essex, said "This project is a great way to encourage people to express themselves. At the art group we run, I regularly see the benefits of art for people living with a mental illness. The process of working on a piece of art can help to ease stress, as well as building people's confidence."
British Association of Art Therapists CEO Dr Val Huet said that when people experiencing deep emotional distress cannot communicate feelings verbally, art-making can provide a path back to the self and to others. “Within the context of art therapy, art can help develop a better understanding of emotions and address their impact on life and relationships,” she explained.
For the Adamson Collection, Dr David O’Flynn, who practises as a Consultant Rehabilitation Psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said that "Those with lived experience, and mental health professionals, see every day the power of creativity, whether this is in the Arts Therapies, or in the many arts-practice mental health studios, projects and initiatives across the country, or in the artwork of the excluded and untrained, the so-called Outsiders."
Shortly ahead of the launch, a group of artists will be given the themes for the 2017 InFinnity Project and asked to create a ‘first impression’ work to be shown and discussed at the launch, when the artists will talk about their responses to the themes and how they had sought to initially express these.
You can follow The InFinnity Project on Facebook here and on Twitter here