The Art House, Our Partners in Sheffield

The Art House opened in August 2015 after a £1.5m refurbishment to provide a bespoke facility in Sheffield’s city centre with Yorkshire’s largest community pottery, art studio, exhibition room and café.  It works with people with mental health difficulties, homeless people and excluded young people.  They come for the opportunity to do worthwhile work, to develop skills and form social networks in a positive environment shared by the public.

Vincent Housing Association (VHA) helped facilitate the development by providing a loan in a joint arrangement with Charity Bank as part of the overall £1.5million costs, the majority of which was raised through fund-raising and grants.

VHA was approached by Graham Duncan who led the project and who knew us through our partnership with the charity Yeldall Homeless Projects which subsequently changed its name to Trinity Homeless Projects and operates a scheme at the property we own in Yeading, Middlesex

Graham recently came to VHA’s Annual General Meeting at Vincent House and spoke about The Art House as well as displaying a selection of beautiful and individual pots created by one of its users.

The Art House provides high quality courses for both the public and for people living with disadvantage, meaning that each group is engaged in the same common endeavour in the same space.  The approach is unique because it locates recovery from mental illness where it belongs: in the heart of the community and aligned with the interests, motivations and lives of the general public. It means that mental health issues are dealt with in a positive, non-stigmatising way which works with people’s strengths and assets. In this space people with mental health difficulties are able to discover their talents and abilities, to learn skills, to volunteer and to become connected to the broader community. Currently 225 people are enrolled on commercial classes and 87 on ‘wellbeing classes’ which are targeted specifically at people with disadvantages.

This approach connects disadvantaged people to the wealth of the wider community. Income from commercial courses provides a vital revenue stream and many café customers participate in a ‘pending’ scheme where they pay for an extra meal which can be claimed by a homeless person. This makes the café accessible to homeless people who value the fact that it is a ‘normal’ space where people behave respectfully. Through natural conversations many are encouraged to join art and pottery classes.

Since opening in August 2015 The Art House has worked with 132 people with mental health difficulties, 26 homeless people, 48  with other disadvantages such as Aspergers, early onset dementia and young people excluded from education.

People living with these disadvantages have said the unique benefits of the Art House are

  • The ability to form social networks which are not based on deficit. They value the fact that mental illness is rarely, if ever, discussed. Instead they are encouraged to focus outwards on learning the skills of making good art.
  • That they learn skills which other people value. It is difficult for many users to find paid work, but at the Art House they can create things which are valued by others and can be affirmed through exhibitions and sales.
  • Progression routes. Some people have progressed into commercial classes where they learn alongside the public. The Art House wants to provide the support to make this route possible for many more people.
  • Opportunities to volunteer for practical tasks in the pottery and art studio, and to assist in commercial classes.
  • The fact that the building is shared with the public so they are not coming to a facility defined by social deficit.

You can read an inspirational case study of one of The Art House’s recent users The Art House Case Study.

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