Falmouth School of Art student Alice Howard collaborated with her good friend and BA Photography student Georgia Hunt in the development of The Drawn Exchange, an art group involving residents at Abbeyfield Residential Home in Falmouth.
Georgia, a final year student of BA(Hons) Photography, had wanted to develop a photography workshop with residents after she discovered that some were creating beautiful artistic work in the privacy of their bedrooms. Georgia described as an immense privilege the access she gained to the private world of this community, but her plans soon broadened. She says, ‘The initial plan to begin a photography workshop was scuppered as I saw a greater need to encourage drawing, the most basic yet fundamental form of seeing. The purpose then shifted to center on relationship, the relationships between the residents and their relationship with drawing’. It was here that Alice became involved. A 3rd year student on BA(Hons) Drawing, Alice brought a love of literature and a foundational understanding of drawing, which underpinned the art group model, based on emotional awareness and creative freedom. Similar to the practice of Art Therapy, the emphasis lay in the process of making art. The success was in the quality of relationship as opposed to the final outcomes. The Drawn Exchange was born.
Each week the group got together around the living room table, with materials selected by the residents. The sessions began with an exercise to engage the emotional mind, to invite and express the unseen and then – responding to how they felt – they began to draw. Sometimes they worked with their non-dominant hand to activate the right hemisphere of the brain, to stimulate emotions, to open up a channel for feeling and to encourage emphasis away from the visual aesthetics of the drawing. Georgia says, ‘I think of it as preparing the ground for further art making to occur, yet it was often the most profound. There is a raw and unknown quality that emerged through the drawings’.
The art group worked predominately from imagination and memory and the residents communicated their internal world, bringing a shift from emotional to physical. Georgia says, ‘The magic of drawing is that it has the capacity to bring to life those fading fragments of memory, unfolding like silent stories on paper’.
Alice introduced poetry into the group, to act as a catalyst for sparking memories and understanding feelings, which could then feed into drawings. Alice says, ‘In a number of sessions, we did collaborative drawings between two people. Starting from a poem enabled the drawer to delve deeper into their emotions sparked by that poem. The collaborative aspect meant that as the paper was turned and we each worked into the other’s drawing, it was no longer about responding to the poem but to the other persons drawing’. The drawing became a form of exchange.
The culmination of the project was a showcase of the work made and curated by the Abbeyfield Art Group. The exhibition was shown in the communal areas at the Abbeyfield Residential home to the joy and acclaim of residents, students, and visitors. Georgia and Alice intend to explore the possibilities of continuing elsewhere the model they have developed here in Falmouth, following their graduation this summer.