Arts project aims to help eating disorders

CONNECT works with artists to inspire creativity and communication

Famous artists from around the world feature in innovative online art classes being launched in West Yorkshire to help those with eating disorders who have suffered from the isolation of the pandemic.

The Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust supports people affected by eating disorders through its CONNECT service. Now the Trust’s occupational therapist Paul Dodgson has been awarded £11,500 to fund two artists to help CONNECT users express their experience of Covid recovery through creative activities including video, animation and social media pages.

‘Connecting Thoughts – Exploring Your Journeys through Art’, aims to take inspiration from major artists and their work in a six-month programme starting this month.

Several of the big-name artists currently feature in exhibitions around the world that can be seen online. They are as wide ranging as Georgia O’Keeffe – known as the ‘mother of American modernism’; Mark Hearld , who lives in York and takes inspiration from British flora and fauna; and Aboriginal artist Audrey Napanangk.

Funding has come from CONNECT, Arts and Minds, and ArtLink of West Yorkshire. The Arts And Minds Network, which is supported by LYPFT, brings together people in Leeds who believe creativity can promote mental wellbeing and encourages people to be more creative. Artlink West Yorkshire is a community arts organisation and two artists from Artlink, Musarat Raza and Rozi Fuller, are providing the Connecting Thought programme for CONNECT.

Musarat and Rozi practise in fine art, textiles and animation and will guide participants to use stencilling, light art, collage, stained glass, photography, ink, watercolours, weaving, and even tie dyeing as they follow the themes linked to each international artist.

The project will partly operate through individual work, and partly, if service users wish, through a Facebook page, where they  can share ideas and post their work.

Paul said: “A major part of the project aims to build up social connection and a sense of belonging as a community. This is very important as people with eating disorders often ‘punish’ themselves by becoming more isolated, and not allowing themselves to be creative.

“Art helps us express emotions – we’re not being art therapists in this project but trying to help people allow themselves to have fun in a relaxed way. Very often people with an eating disorder struggle with perfectionism and this project is not about perfection at all – it’s about enjoying exploring colour and light and textures with two artists who live and breathe their subject.”

Part of the funding will be spent on providing materials for service users. Paul added:

“For me this is a new approach and I believe it can be a really important part of someone’s recovery. It’s using art to work in partnership recognising that experts can open up potential. It’s wonderful that we will have six months with all these resources.

“It could be transformative. Art can keep you engrossed in a massively powerful way and keep you ‘out of your head’ – something that eating disorder patients struggle to do.”

‘Connecting Thoughts – Exploring Your Journeys through Art’, looks at artists and their work including Tom Wudl, the Bolivian artist inspired by Buddhist meditation, sculptor Liz, William Morris and his stained glass work, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, remembered for her self-portraits, and Seung Hoon Park, the South Korean photographer.