Earlier this year we came across Artspace Brighton, a small, Brighton based charity founded in 2013 by Abi Jones and Kit Man. When we learned about their work, assisting recovery by providing an art studio for adults with experience of mental health issues, we wanted to do something to support them. With the ongoing cuts in mental health care - as well as in arts funding - Artspace is providing a much needed service to its members.
Abi Jones and Kit Man, founders of Artspace Studio
We booked in a meeting to learn more about the charity and to find out what kind of support might be useful. When we arrived at their small but cosy art studio we were met by Abi, Kit and Michael, the three facilitators who run the charity and the sessions. They explained the way the studio is run, how members get referred and how the sessions are organised. After a few minutes, one of the members turned up and joined us. She showed us some of her artwork and it was very interesting to hear first-hand her views and experiences from being a member of the studio.
As for any charity, fundraising takes up a lot of the Artspace volunteers’ time and it is not easy to secure enough funds to keep the studio running. We already had an idea for a way of offering some financial support. A small part of our business is online sales to non-trade customers. It is there as a service to customers who are unable to get to one of our many stockists. We pay our artists royalties on all sales, and as the non-trade sales are comparatively small we thought we would ask the artists if they would like to donate those royalties to this art based mental health charity. Dry Red Press would match the donations made by the artists to make it go a little further. Our lovely artists were very happy to contribute, and we are pleased to say we have just made our first donation.
Art making in the studio
We have also discussed other ways we could offer our support. One idea is to publish a charity range using artwork by the members of the studio. We are currently looking into this and are hoping to get started on a collaboration later in the year.
To explain more about how it all works, these are Abi’s and Kit’s own words:
Our charity, Artspace Brighton, operates from an art studio at the bottom of a high-rise block on the Bristol Estate, East Brighton. The studio is open to people across the city who are experiencing mental health issues and who have an interest in creating art in a shared space. Members of the studio explore a range of disciplines, including printmaking, painting, clay sculpting and mosaicking. We run things in a member-led way; meaning planning and decision making is shared between our project’s facilitators and studio members at our quarterly ‘Artist Meetings’.
Flower, Acrylic on Canvas. Painting by a member of the studio.
In addition to our studio based activities, we support our members to exhibit their own artwork and to visit galleries and events in the South East. For example, members of the studio regularly attend Outside In’s ‘Share Art’ events at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, to show images of their work and speak about their artistic process and inspirations to an audience. On the 18th of July, we are going on our first visit to the Tate Modern in London to see the temporary Giacometti exhibit, which is generating a lot of excitement amongst members and facilitators alike! Other upcoming summer trips will include the Cass Sculpture Foundation and Charleston Manor.
Nature mandala made by the group on a Walk and Draw outing
We also go out on regular ‘Walk and Draw’ outings in the Sussex countryside, in order to draw inspiration from nature and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and gentle exercise together. Some people have been members of the studio for two or three years now, meaning that the project has become a really valuable part of their life. When asked to feedback on their experiences of Artspace, studio members have said:
“I love coming to Artspace, it’s the highlight of my week. I like working with other artists. I like the fact that I can ask for help and advice if necessary. I’ve made some friends at the studio and we meet up outside sometimes. If Artspace weren’t here, there’d be a big hole in my life”.
A studio member designing a lino print
“I enjoy the space, the materials and the people. It feels like a home away from home, it gives you great satisfaction because you know what you’re coming to. You’ve got the two nice people that run it, the studio itself, and you get inspiration from the books and materials and from the other people themselves. You get a good feeling from coming here and from the people, even if someone is having a bad day, you get a sense that you want to help each other. I think it’s got to that point where I think we’re all looking out for each other and we ask about each other’s upcoming things. Basically, it feels like you’ve got a big happy family here. It makes you feel proud. Outside, I’ve forgotten what a family feeling is like, as I’ve only got my older half-brother”.
Painting in the studio
When asked about the donation from Dry Red Press and their artists, founder and studio manager Abi Jones said:
“We were over the moon to be contacted by Kicki and Laura from Dry Red Press. As a small, volunteer run charity it feels really validating of our efforts when people contact to say they’ve noticed what we’re doing and would like to contribute in some way. Our income is mainly made up of the membership fee we charge those accessing the studio, £5 per week, as well as grants from the local authority and other local trusts and foundations. To have the artists at Dry Red Press donating some profit from their cards sales has diversified our income stream, and will allow us to purchase good quality materials for our studio members. We really appreciate it, thank you!”
Abi and Kit in the studio
To learn more about this art based mental health charity and art studio, please visit their website www.artspacebrighton.org.uk.
Thank you for reading,
Laura and Kicki