Simone Gillam opened our Exhibition on May 3 with an inspiring speech which she has given us permission to share with you all. 

Above pictures show our President, Gabi Dick, a taste of the exhibition and Simone Gillam.

Thank you, Gabi, for inviting me to open the 2019 Wallace House Autumn Exhibition. What a privilege it is to be here to launch this fabulous display and to acknowledge the importance of the Wallace House Art Community.

My name is Simone Gillam and I come to you as a community member, as an artist (I draw, paint, print and dabble), as an art networker, as a Regional Arts Development Officer and as an Arts and Mental Health Officer. And it is this aspect of how Art activity benefits mental health that I will share with you this evening.

What an amazing collective of skills we see here with beading, book & paper making, boomerang bags, crochet, embroidery, mosaics, pastel, porcelain art, printing, quilting, scrapbooking, smocking, spinning, knitting & weaving and watercolour. This then is a celebration of your collective talent and your connection in a creative community (Give yourself a loud round of applause).

As artists you understand the importance art has to your health and wellbeing. This is something tangible that you know in yourself when you experience that special connection within yourself and with others making and creating. That magical connection between head, heart and hand, the act of creating something new and beautiful out of raw materials is a focus that fills the mind. Using your imagination, discussing your ideas with others, planning and dreaming, visualising, and utilising skills learnt over time with trial and error, the actual art process behind the actual making is quite extensive. As creative beings we have all experienced the sense of “flow”, that sense of timelessness totally “mindful” in the activity… this can happen when you are engaged in any creative activity.

Today research has labelled concepts such as “flow” and “mindfulness” as elements of positive psychology. “Mindfulness” has become a well-respected field in therapy that utilizes the focus that we employ as artists. In activities utilizing the senses doing breathing, seeing, listening, tasting and feeling activities, therapists train clients to become present and focused in the moment. With the mind focused on an art activity we connect through concentration to a sanctuary of awareness that escapes the chatter of the thinking mind. Hence art activity has been found useful in mental health recovery with relaxation and relief gained through the focus on creativity rather than on negative thoughts. The relief is in realizing the fact that thoughts are simply just thoughts and creating is fun to do!

Art is a natural way to practice mindfulness. The colours, textures and sounds of creating pull us into the moment. You don’t need any training to meditate through art, just a willingness to draw like a child, with freedom and a sense of curiosity. Pablo Picasso said “All children are born artists; the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” So, it doesn’t matter what you are doing whether it be cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing or painting when you’re in the zone, present in the moment and mindfully making and creating you feel good. Science has explained the release of feel good endorphins when “creating” and therefore “Coming to the House” is recognised worldwide as being good for your health.

I love that expression “Coming to the House”! For me it means not only those times losing myself “mindfully” in my art but “Coming to the House” is time to make connections with my “tribe”, the likeminded individuals that also gain that enjoyment and satisfaction

creating art. Involvement in the arts can provide a vehicle for people across the stages of life to connect and have a sense of space and belonging. The arts provide the opportunity to tell your story, to express your learning and to help make sense of it all. It is a reflection looking back at you and your world. From my Art and Mental Health experience connecting with others and community is another key health benefit of engaging in art projects. For those in recovery it can be challenging to participate in public activity and what we learned about encouraging participation was that it takes a non-judgemental, relaxed and welcoming environment to make participants feel supported.

Here at Wallace House we can celebrate that we do feel supported, that we invest and make the time to be brave and courageous, throwing caution to the wind, curious and free to create in this wonderful space. Our “house” will continue to flourish by welcoming the diversity of creatives, encouraging networks, guest artists, presentations and workshops, a gathering hub inclusive to all ages and abilities. Thank you to all the wonderful members and artists for pitching in to make events like this happen, to the hangers of the exhibition and to all those who volunteer their time and energy to making “the house” a success. May Wallace House continue to flourish and provide this wonderful resource, an invaluable creative hub for all.