The workshops, which have been arranged by Pallant House Gallery in collaboration with the Carers’ Support Service, Regis, Chichester and Rural, were set up to provide support for those individuals who dedicate their time to the care of a family member. As Sandra Peaty, Community Programme Coordinator at Pallant House Gallery explained: “The contribution that carers make is often forgotten and taken for granted. Many carers find their role leaves them isolated. The Gallery wanted to recognise the role they play and offer those who have an interest in art, a relaxing and creative space in the Gallery Studio.”

The content of the workshops was established after consulting the carers who wanted to try out and explore a wide range of art activities including photography, sculpture, mixed media and printing. Each month, an artist educator spends two hours with the group, working in and around the Gallery and allowing them to work at their own pace and in their own style. Maria Riese, a local photographer who has already led a successful photography workshop with the carers, said: ‘‘It always amazes me how much creativity and enthusiasm I discover in people. I hope that the Care for Art workshops create a place where people feel free to dip into their hidden creativity.”

The feedback from the sessions confirms that the participants are enjoying the creative and social space in the studio, providing the much-needed respite from their caring roles. Diane Wallis who cares for her daughter, has been particularly inspired by the watercolour workshop and has even been putting her new skills to use at home: “It is lovely to come somewhere and meet other carers, but it’s also great that we don’t just spend time talking about caring. I don’t really think about that when I’m here. I’m really enjoying being me, being an adult and being an individual.”

Other participants agreed that art was like a form of therapy for them. Margaret Karnes said: “Art works as it is totally absorbing. If your emotions are running a bit high when you come to the Gallery, the moment you walk in, it calms you down and you go home a bit saner! Being a carer, you can’t get cross and your emotions are on hold. They’ve got to come out and be expressed and I can’t think of a better way than putting paint to paper.” Margaret also commented that the workshops helped introduce her to the Gallery and the type of art that she at first found daunting: “Working in the Gallery, I have learned that modern art is actually a lot more accessible than I first thought”. Margaret particularly likes the muted and atmospheric abstract pieces in the Gallery.

For all individuals involved, there was one over-riding reaction to Care for Art, in that the workshops are particularly important at a time when the Government is making cuts to care services. Janet, a regular volunteer at Pallant House Gallery, helps out at every workshop and has seen first hand how successful the sessions have been in providing this support. She commented: “It’s great seeing the support that people give each other. As well as the fact that it provides time for them, they also know that everyone else is in the same boat but that they don’t have to talk about it. As a volunteer, you get a lot emotionally out of it. It’s a very pleasurable place to be”

The Community Programme is currently seeking further funding to enable Care for Art to continue for at least another year.