By Eden Szymura
Nestled in an unsuspecting cul-de-sac, just off Sherburn Road in Gilesgate, sits RTProjects. A 1960s bungalow from the outside, complete with a child-sized meerkat, Frank, the building is transformed into The Open Art Surgery once you step inside. Founded in 2007 by Beano and Emma, RTProjects provides a safe and creative environment where individuals can connect with others in their communities, learning new skills and finding a place they can call ‘home’.
Participants at RTProjects have often gone through adverse childhood experiences, and are dealing with enduring depression and/or anxiety. However, this is a mental health charity like no other. There are no clinical doctors rooms or blunted scissors that scream a lack of trust, but rather craft knives mixed amongst origami cranes and paper lanterns.
There is a real sense of community and character in this place, helped by the large work table that occupies most of the space. Students come to volunteer and participate alongside locals, doing everything from supporting creative sessions to chairing fundraising events.
Art therapy aims to provide people suffering from mental health disorders
Anyone who walks through the door at RT is introduced to a wide range of activities including painting, printmaking, sculpture and creative writing. Art therapy aims to provide people suffering from mental health disorders with valuable tools to explore and voice their emotional experiences. Through this, participants can move beyond distress and towards understanding and relief. Unlike talking therapies, art is free from the constraint of words, offering a nonverbal language in which to represent thoughts and feelings.
Emma is keen to dispel the myth that art is an exclusive activity. ‘Human beings are innately expressive and curious; we start producing art as soon as we’re able to hold a pencil.’ Our self-consciousness surrounding art is deeply embedded: ‘As we get older and start to become aware of other people’s judgement, our artistic expression becomes more internalised. The only thing stopping us from becoming artists are our own inhibitions.’
RT’s philosophy encourages individuals to pursue their own artistic interests at whatever pace suits them. The beauty of it is that ‘art isn’t just about drawing. It can be about colour, lines, modelling, singing, anything, really.’ By facilitating artistic expression, the charity not only provides materials and equipment but emotional and practical support for their participants.
Importantly, RTProjects operates in a group environment, facilitating attendees to re-connect with others and reduce feelings of isolation.
This process of sharing allows attendees to form bonds with their peers, providing a sense of belonging that can transform their quality of life
Participants witness the artistic process of others, sparking ideas and offering new perspectives to help them on their journey to healing. This process of sharing allows attendees to form bonds with their peers, providing a sense of belonging that can transform their quality of life
For students, it’s a win-win situation. You’re given the responsibility and respect often denied to people our age whilst knowing you’re making a real difference to people’s lives. Being in such an infectiously positive environment also means that you get a self-care top up yourself. Ultimately, in that little bungalow, RTProjects offers a lifeline. It’s no understatement to say that discovering art can quite literally turn your life around.
To find out more about RTProjects and to get involved both as a volunteer or participant, contact Beano and Emma at email@example.com
RTProjects relies on donations to keep doing their amazing work. Help them do their thing by supporting the charity here.
Image courtesy of RTProjects