Quiet Places for Unquiet Minds – Working in Isolation

Paul Newman from Somerset Art Works recently caught up with artist printmaker Simon Ripley about the Quiet Places for Unquiet Minds project.

Over a phone call, Simon began by telling Paul how he has had to adapt his approach to working with groups, using live online workshop delivery and individual support to enable participation during these times of social distancing. The Chard Watch group have worked well to adapt to the situation by taking advantage of online connectivity, continuing to work together, but from home. It’s a flexible approach, responding to the situation and listening to the needs of the group.

Simon explained how his work has always held people’s needs at the centre, with creativity as the vehicle, focusing on socially-engaged practice and co-creation, developing relevant projects to people and place. It’s also about communication and partnership, building and tending relationships, growing and developing together with resources and expertise from different areas, with shared aims and connectivity, an approach which is mirrored in Somerset Art Works’ Learning and Engagement strategy.

In a time of isolation, socially-engaged practice has faced particular challenges but it is clear that different partnerships want to work out ways of continuing their work together and to successfully adapt. Although the focus currently is on digital interaction, it is also recognised that those with mental health and other needs require a bit more support and personal connection with an artist, who can help build their confidence and guide and support them through the creative process. However, not all are digitally connected, so artist time is needed for telephone/postal support to widen access to participation.

This seemed like a fitting end to our catch up – like so many things at the moment, expectations have changed and answers are fluid. We are all having to find flexible, creative solutions which allow us to react and adapt to a fast changing situation, providing new ways of thinking and feeling in how we re-connect with ourselves and each other.

Words by Paul Newman, images by Rebecca MacPherson Assistant Artist