School of Business researcher’s exhibition exploring links between art and wellbeing

Posted by pm357 at Mar 14, 2018 03:55 PM |
School of Business PhD student, Katie Melvin, has been awarded a Wellcome Trust grant which is helping her run an art exhibition as part of DeStress Fest at Attenborough Arts Centre from 9 - 28 March in collaboration with local artists Jenny Hibberd and Emma Fay.

The exhibition, made up of three installations, will allow Katie to combine her interests of how researchers can engage with art and ideas surrounding wellbeing. DeStress Fest is a three month-long festival which invites people to study the mind and body through the lens of art. Katie and Jenny present themselves and their installations under the banner of 'MadArt'. The MadArt installations contribute to the Attenborough Arts Centre's main "Portraits of the Mind" exhibition by Emma Fay.

Katie’s research at the University of Leicester, on a studentship project funded by the School of Business and School of Psychology, investigates feelings and psychosis. Bringing together her research and background of working in the NHS, she recognised we don’t always have the language to express, or tools to research feelings, and so set about investigating other ways to explore the subject.

Alongside practicing art in her spare time, Katie is interested how art can be used by researchers, as she explains further: “In research, I think visual and arts-based methods can be a useful tool, to study how our feelings and experiences relate to our social and material circumstances. I’m keen to explore what methods and theories from different disciplines can bring to our understanding of feeling, mental health and experiences described as psychosis.

Katie was invited by Gurdeep Sian a.k.a G Sian, Arts Council Change Maker and Associate Director at Attenborough Arts Centre to be an 'Academic-in-Residence' alongside the "All Brains are the Same Colour" exhibition during February 2018 as part of DeStress Fest. This was a play on the well-established model of 'artist-in-residence'. Katie presented 'Feeling in the World', a series of monochromatic images and sculptural form which demonstrated how human experience is less linear or predictable, yet rather a process of rich interactions. Her residency refreshingly revealed that her approach was entirely in keeping with the process based work of artists and that there is a more meaningful relationship to be genuinely pursued between the arts and academia.

Katie added: “I’m interested in how art and art spaces can be used to engage with the public and share ideas. The Wellcome Trust Grant has provided me with resources to have hands on experience of setting up and delivering an exhibition in a contemporary art gallery. I’m hoping in the future, I can use art and art spaces as a tool for public engagement to share the empirical outcomes of my research.”

After meeting with Jenny Hibberd and discussing collaborating on some art installations, G Sian suggested Katie apply for the Wellcome Trust grant to help pay for the materials required to put on an exhibition. Katie and Jenny have been working with concept body artist Emma Fay, who provided them with the opportunity to exhibit their works within her Portraits of the Mind exhibition.

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. It supports scientists and researchers, takes on big problems, fuels imaginations, and sparks debate. It works to improve health by funding great ideas, with funding schemes that support individuals, teams, resources, seed ideas, places and major initiatives in areas including biomedical science, population health, product development and applied research, public engagement and the creative industries.

Through three installations at the Arts Centre, Katie and Jenny aim to encourage people to reflect on wellbeing in different ways. The cathartic installation “Bin and Gone” invites people to write down something negative to throw away and set a positive intention to take forward. Whilst the “Book of Feel Good” invites visitors to contribute their best feel good tips, with aims to create a community archive of wellbeing advice and peer support. The “Thought Traits” series, displays experiments of using art as a tool to express feelings and to listen.

Jenny added: “I’m a spoken word artist, musician and visual designer. I run House of Verse CIC, a variety performance collective which started as an immersive installation exhibition. I’m really excited to further pursue visual art, I hope our MadArt exhibition inspires people and opens up curious conversations about human experience.”

The Attenborough Arts Centre held a preview night on Friday 9 March in its main gallery before opening to the public with the installations displayed until Wednesday 28 March. Michaela Butter, Director of the Attenborough Arts Centre said: “We are delighted to be working with the School of Business in finding ways to connect their ground-breaking academic research to wider audiences through arts based activity.”

G Sian added: “As DeStress Fest has progressed I've recognised that it is less and less about mental health and entirely about the fundamentals of the Human Condition. Katie's involvement in DeStress Fest has demonstrated that collaborations across disciplines are not only necessary - they are a vital part of human experience - of human existence. It is quite obvious really - yet we as a species tend to define and block ourselves into categories. As ChangeMaker I am optimistic that Attenborough Arts Centre will invite more academics to genuinely collaborate with the arts and raise the value of each other.”


DeStress Fest

Emma Fay's exhibition is the headline event of the festival alongside the Radiohead installation 'Fitter Happier OKNOTOK'

The Wellcome Trust

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. The trust remains true to the vision and values of its founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, a medical entrepreneur, collector and philanthropist. Its work today reflects the amazing breadth of Henry's interests, and his belief that science and research expand knowledge by testing and investigating ideas.

Its funding supports over 14,000 people in more than 70 countries. In the next five years, it aims to spend up to £5 billion helping thousands of curious, passionate people all over the world explore ideas in science, population health, medical innovation, the humanities and social sciences and public engagement.

Attenborough Arts Centre

Attenborough Arts Centre is Leicester’s largest contemporary arts gallery and pioneering cultural hub, offering audiences a chance to see the very best in visual and performing arts.

Attenborough Arts Centre pushes the boundaries, expectations and potential of contemporary arts for both our audiences and creators in a wide programme of performance, art exhibitions, courses and workshops, and free activities for children and families. Funded by both the University of Leicester and Arts Council England, our recent £1.5 million investment has doubled the size of our existing building and with it our audiences have grown to over 109,000 people.

Our work is inspired by world leading filmmaker and lifelong champion of accessible arts, Richard Attenborough, our founding patron who helped to establish our arts centre over 20 years ago. We continue his legacy in striving to support everyone in having access to see and make ground-breaking arts and culture.

Attenborough Arts Centre is the future for dynamic, breakthrough and inspirational contemporary arts. We proudly welcome you to experience and share, challenge, inform, and shape our exceptional work created for and by everyone, designed to inspire and broaden all our imaginations.

Katie Melvin

Katie’s own work, inspired by her PhD research, has been displayed at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre, which included a portrait of the process philosopher Susanne Langer. Her collaborative “Bin and Gone” installations with artist Jenny Hibberd, have been installed across campus at the University Library and Students’ Union since January.