LifewithArt North East:

Alongside my artist practice, I am also the Art Co-ordinator & Tutor for North East England for the fantastic arts charity, LifewithArt. "I'm really pleased to have the opportunity to work with LifewithArt. They do some amazing work and really do make the world a better and happier place for a lot of people out there! Their ethos ties in with my own working principles about the importance of creativity and I am delighted to be part of the team now!"

www.lifewithart.co.uk/ - Don't forget to "LIKE" their Facebook page! :-)

What is LifewithArt?

LifewithArt is a charity, established in 2010 with the purpose of helping younger people, older adults and/or people with disabilities/learning difficulties throughout the UK through education in the Arts. We support both national charities, local community groups and other worthy causes.

The therapeutic benefits of art for LifewithArt clients has been proven by other national charities but very few are able to work on a regional basis by regularly supporting their clients through art workshops. LifewithArt supports them, the local community groups and the smaller regional charities by providing free art workshops to allow their clients the opportunity to create something themselves, at whatever level they are able to achieve, giving them pride and confidence in their own abilities.

What does your role entail?

My work involves planning and delivering art workshops at our charity arts centres in Newcastle, Peterlee, North Shields, Stockton-on-Tees. I also organise for local charities/community groups to participate in the free workshop opportunities. (See below on how to get involved.)

What’s the best thing about working with LifewithArt?

Through my work, I have met some truly inspirational people to date. I believe that people with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, and should be afforded the same opportunities to reach their goals in life. I always feel privileged and humbled to meet such individuals -those who are living strong after facing adversity in their lives. I was really excited (and still am!) to be selected for this role and loving every minute of it! The work ties in with my own ethos as an artist to empower people through creativity and has allowed me more opportunities to really make a difference in another person’s life. When you see all the happy smiling faces at the end of a workshop, you see firsthand just how worthwhile it all is… After all, happy people make the world go round! :-)

What are your most memorable highlights so far?

One particular moment, which still sticks out even now, was when I encountered a rather stubborn participant who was absolutely determined to not enjoy the workshop and refused to smile whatsoever. Eventually, he started to paint onto canvas, exploring a range of colours and paint application techniques. Throughout, he kept insisting that he “couldn’t do it” and “wasn’t very good”, which is an attitude I come across quite a lot in my work. Thus, I was determined to make a breakthrough with this particular participant. Later on, I held up his canvas for him so that he could see what it looked like from a distance. After not caring much for it beforehand, his face was a picture when I showed him his painting. I heard him say to himself in disbelief, "I did this..." As I watched him react to what he saw in front of him, I remarked, "Gosh! Is that a smile I see on your face?" The gentleman then looked at me, sighed and said, "That was a smile. That's mine." He started to well up with emotion and was so overcome with shock and awe over what he had created. It is moments like these when you experience firsthand what a difference art can make to an individual. I felt extremely privileged to share this moment and it has stayed with me long afterwards. The gentleman had a big smile like The Cheshire Cat for the remainder of the session and left the workshop an extremely happy chappy. I later heard that the painting has earned pride of place on his wall…

Another nice moment was at the end of one workshop when one lady with cerebral palsy remarked, "Wow! I've made this all by myself!" with the biggest smile on her face. Often, the participants are surprised about what they manage to accomplish by the end of the 2 hours. I am sure that every person who takes part in our workshops feels exactly the same level of personal achievement. It’s great to witness the individual progress of each participants over the weeks.

A particular highlight of 2012 was when one of the groups we worked with ended up having their very first public exhibition this winter. This was the Dreamcatcher PSP group, based in Bishop Auckland, who do a fabulous job in supporting clients who have learning difficulties. I was so proud when I heard about this and was delighted to go along to their special Preview event at the McGuinness Gallery, Bishop Auckland. The group were so excited, as was I! Seeing their confidence levels build up over the weeks was amazing and I was just pleased that I could be a part of their creative journey.

Who can benefit from the arts?

Everyone. –and that’s a fact. The workshops I design are intended to be hands-on and inclusive, giving participants the time and space to think, respond and create. I firmly believe that every person is more than perfectly capable of creating something really special, no matter what their individual circumstances are.

How successful have your workshops been?

In their own little ways, I feel that everyone we have worked with has overcome their own fears and uncertainties, so that they could create some truly fabulous pieces. So the answer to this question is: VERY. Ultimately, it is about inspiring a positive mental attitude and promoting freedom to think through self-expression… and this is exactly what LifewithArt enables.

Who has LifewithArt worked with?

ME Research UK, Teenage Cancer Trust, Riding for the Disabled Association to name but a few.

At our charity art centres in the North East, we have worked with: The Percy Hedley Foundation (Newcastle); The Huntercombe House (Peterlee); Age UK (Durham); Tourettes Action North East; Durham Deafened Support (Durham); Forever Families Support Group (Northumberland); Dreamcatcher PSP (Bishop Auckland); Gateshead Carers; North Tyneside Carers' Centre (North Shields); Success4All (Newcastle); Stonham Services, Home Group (North Shields); The Manor House Care Home (Gosforth); The Heathland Project, Laurie Brewis Trust (Carlisle); Able 2 Day Services, Percy Hedley (Newcastle), Action on Impulse (North East), West Gate Hill Primary School (Newcastle)... Could YOU be next?

Opportunities to Get Involved:

Every so often, I will be seeking charities/local groups to take part in our free workshops opportunity at one of our North East venues. Each charity/local community group will receive a designated number of free workshops at a time. This includes tutors, materials and refreshments.

If your charity/local group would like to get involved or you would like further information, please get in touch with Pui Lee at pui_lee@hotmail.com and quote ”LifewithArt” in the subject.

Similarly, if you have any recommendations for any charities/local community groups who would enjoy these type of art sessions, please feel free to pass on their contact details.

Charities/local groups who have expressed an interest will be placed onto a "waiting list" and will be notified of opportunities that arise with LifewithArt as they come.

For donations to the charity, please contact LifewithArt at info@lifewithart.co.uk. Gift aid forms are available too.

LifewithArt North East GALLERY: (enlargement option coming soon...)