AN art project set up to help people with mental health problems is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Art Studio, which was launched in 1986 with a handful of members in a dusty old building, has grown into a 120-strong group which recently moved to new premises.
The Hendon-based organisation, which has relocated from Hind Street to Lombard Street, aims to combat isolation, build confidence and self-esteem, as well as help people learn new skills. Its workshops range from pottery to digital art, as well as painting, printmaking, drawing and sculpture.
Project manager Ruth Petrie said: “The Art Studio has a friendly atmosphere, which is free from the stigma associated with mental ill health.
“Members are encouraged to try new things, to meet new people and to find a new, positive role as an artist.”
Last year, the Art Studio was forced to move from its Hind Street premises after the building became unsafe.
For seven months, the group worked out of community venues provided by Tyne and Wear Museums and Sunderland City Council culture and tourism department before moving to its new site.
“It was a difficult time, yet our members continued to support us and we even had new referrals to the project,” said Ms Petrie.
The Art Studio was set up by the Artists Agency in response to the Care in the Community report, a government initiative which highlighted the need to give people with mental health problems more support.
Two artists, Chris Sell and Derek Hill, were employed to work with locals.
“Their brief was to work alongside people rather than to teach art,” said Ms Petrie. “This model has been successful for many years.
“Staff members have a wide knowledge of support networks and retain contact with health and social care professionals.
“This enables them to give appropriate one-to-one support to members and to follow this up with sign posting to other services when the need arises.”
The Art Studio is holding an open day on October 13, when Sunderland Mayor Norma Wright will officially open its building.
Call 5677 414 for more information.