Leith School of Art has received £8,890 from Aberdeen Standard Investments Charitable Foundation to deliver art classes to some of the most disadvantaged people in its community.
Based in the old dock area of Edinburgh, one of the most disadvantaged parts of the city where poverty, unemployment and the associated social problems feature high, the art school seeks to nurture art education for all, regardless of their financial or personal situation.
Creating art can be therapeutic, and a means of self expression. People with an artistic talent may be excluded from a high-quality art education for financial reasons, or because approaching an art school can feel exclusive or intimidating. To counter these barriers, and to offer these experiences to people living in the community, the Leith School of Art launched community art classes where those receiving benefits, or on very low incomes, pay just £2 per session, which includes all materials.
The tutors and tutor supports are practising artists with experience of teaching art in social welfare settings. In line with Leith School of Art’s charitable aims to make high quality art education as inclusive as possible, they all have compassionate attitudes and one is trained in counselling.
The classes provide a calm and reflective space where students learn new skills, socialise, build confidence, and have a break from often very troubled lives. Many of the students have told how classes add meaning to their lives beyond the art tuition; the classes enable them to beat social isolation by getting out of their homes and feeling part of the community.
One of the community art class students said: “I don’t know how much my improvement in mood is down to anti-depressants, but doing something I love is probably the best treatment for my condition.”
Philip Archer, Principal at Leith School of Art, said: “We offer people on benefits or very low incomes affordable and high-quality art tuition, which as well as nurturing artistic talent, supports people to feel more socially included and builds their confidence and self-esteem.
“Community classes provide a calm and reflective space in which to learn new skills, develop confidence and socialise. Students describe the classes as a lifeline, enabling them to get out of their homes and feel part of the community. Students are encouraged and supported to pursue their artistic interests. The classes address social inequality in access to the arts.”
Claire Drummond head of charitable giving for Aberdeen Standard Investments Charitable Foundation added: “These classes are an excellent way to use the arts to reach out to support and encourage to build the confidence among people living in the community of Leith. As well as being a form of expression to build creativity skills, art is proven to help people deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. This project fits well with the aims of our Foundation which seeks to have a meaningful and measurable impact in the communities where our employees live and work.”
The community classes have proved to be a stepping stone to other opportunities, with some students progressing into other art courses or further education, raising their aspirations and overcoming the odds to greatly improve their long-term employment prospects. Its students will be among those showing their work in the Leith School of Art Summer exhibition which takes place from 22-24 June 2018 at 11A John’s Place and 25 North Junction Street, Leith.