Our Story

We believe that a person cannot be explained through a medical diagnosis and that most mental distress is caused by social circumstances often outside the person’s control.

Arty-Folks was founded in November 1995 by a user of mental health services who felt disempowered by his diagnosis, ‘managed’ by the medical profession, and written off by society in collaboration with a community artist.

We ran the first workshop on 25th April 1996 and we have offered an uninterrupted service on a shoestring budget since with the support of numerous wonderful Peer Volunteers.

By 2017 we were running four weekly creative Peer Support groups including one specifically for young people 18-30 years old who are struggling to transition into independence and adulthood.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we have been running our groups online.

We often think about creativity as making something new and original, but in fact the latin root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’.

Then as much as now, the people who come to Arty-Folks are seeking our support to bridge the gap from being dependent on mental health services to leading a self-directed life in the community.  But we recognise this is a very difficult transition to make if your mental illness has socially isolated you and you have never worked or have been out of work for many years.

We have embedded 1:1 Coaching and Mentoring in all four art groups to help our members resolve issues impacting on their mental health such as debts, benefits, medical reviews, homelessness, hoarding, safeguarding, physical health and addictions.  It involves solution-focused counselling and individual support to access opportunities to increase health and wellbeing including volunteering, education, and employment.

Today, we help over 150 people per year to grow through very difficult times in their lives and to map their own way forward.

Art requires the courage to let go of certainties and not being afraid to fail.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way and allowing yourself to make mistakes. At the heart of our Art Program is the certainty that in everyone lives a spirit of inquiry that can lead to extraordinary insights, breakthroughs, and personal growth.

We harness the transformational power of the visual arts to support our members develop the confidence to try new things, the self-belief to pursue their ideas, and the resilience to cope with change and withstand setbacks.

We plan a schedule of art projects for each group that combines learning specific visual arts techniques with self-development themes.  Members attend only one group, starting with the Wednesday group, and move through the groups as their creative skills and mental health awareness increases.

 “Arty-Folks helps clear the clutter from your mind and gain some perspective on what really matters. Seeing your deepest thoughts and feelings express in pieces of art is an extremely cathartic and therapeutic experience.”