Mansfield’s high levels of deprivation includes women experiencing trauma from domestic violence and abuse. MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference) repeats have increased from 25% to 33% between 2020 and 2021 due to the increased volume of high risk cases (DA Partnership Board 2022). Our project focuses on participatory activities for such groups in the museum to explore how we can learn from each other and make positive change.

We deliver creative experiences for at-risk women, inspired by the museum’s collection and directed by the participants’ interests. Facilitated by the Community Projects Assistant and supported by artists and an art therapist; between us we are discovering the ‘herstories’ within our collections. Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Art Power’s goals are; to build confidence, promote a sense of place, encourage pride in creation, make friendships, and stimulate long-term engagement with our place, people and things.

Building on research by Nuala Morse and Mark O’Neill in the field of culture and wellbeing, our project informs a PhD entitled ‘Art Cares’, this collaboration shares resources and strengthens capacity to make an impact.

Partners; Jigsaw Support Services (hoarding support), Women’s Aid, the Domestic Abuse service within the DWP, Supporting, Healing, Educating (SHE), Nottinghamshire Independent Domestic Abuse Service (NIDAS), Nottinghamshire Sexual Violence Support Services, Change, Grow, Live, (drug and alcohol charity), and social prescribers, refer women, we also recruit from groups hosted at the museum. NIDAS provide training in domestic violence awareness for museum staff, and we are accessing supervision. Creative workshops encourage mindful engagement with process and creation, and, along the way, friendships are made and support networks built. Participants are now meeting outside the workshop, we also notice increased self-esteem, e.g., some are planning workshops to deliver to their peer groups, sharing skills in jewellery, French knitting and crochet. One group having workshops in their own ‘safe-space’ now feel confident enough to visit the museum and ideas for long term engagement are developing as relationships grow; collections care workshops are planned in response to participants’ interest. Participants have produced clay tiles, felt shoes, enamelled miniatures and woven bodices and Becky has created a wind turbine displayed in the museum’s Climate exhibition. We visit art and heritage sites; one woman became overcome with emotion when visiting the museum’s café after a tour of the lace gallery saying, “I can’t believe something so nice is happening to me.” Two participants have just applied for gallery assistant roles.

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale is used to monitor health outcomes over the two years’ of the project and participant interviews take place six monthly. We began in March 2022 and have delivered twenty-four workshops, including eight with artists and four with our art therapist. Sixty-two women are registered with the project, forty women have attended and thirty-one are now regular attendees, none of whom visited previously.

Tamsin Greaves

Community Projects Assistant, Mansfield Museum