A letter to the 'lost creatives': the benefits of art for happiness

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By Phoebe Rodway, President of UOB Art Society

The Croft Magazine // When I came to Uni one of my priorities was to keep some form of creativity in my life. Especially in first year – which at times can be stressful, lonely and confusing –  I found it invaluable to set aside a time each week for what I consider practical mindfulness.

In my first term I discovered the 8x8 course, run by local artist Ella Bryant, through the art society. Each week we learnt a new technique ranging from watercolours and badgemaking to sculpture and natural light photography in a relaxed yet informative environment.

I came to view 8x8 as my own personal art therapy which gave me the opportunity to work practically with my hands, shutting my brain off and escaping from the intensity of first year.

UOB Art Society / Phoebe Rodway

I enjoyed 8x8 so much that I continued to do it in second term, working with yet more new materials and also meeting more new creatively likeminded people. When I speak about creatively minded people, however, I don’t just mean people who are good at fine art; this is why we have recently changed our name from UOB Fine Art Society to the simple UOB Art Society because we believe all the arts should be celebrated.

I want to stress the fact that you do not need to ‘good’ at art to take part in any of the courses we have to offer.

Students taking part range from engineers to historians: what they have in common is the practical urge to inspire their otherwise stagnantly academic minds through art.

I recommend this practice of creative mindfulness to anyone who needs more relaxation in their life – it is guaranteed to improve your happiness and therefore your productiveness.

In second year I decided to branch out a bit more and try something different; namely Art School, run through the society. At first I was hesitant, purely because the name sounded like a little too much extra work.

However, it turned out to be one of the best decision I’ve made since coming to Uni. I was still able to have the practical creative outlet for four of the eight weeks of the course, where a different local artist did a workshop with us in the style of their own practice.

Freshers' Fair 2018 UOB Art Society / Phoebe Rodway

On top of that, they gave an informal talk on their life as an artist which was inspiring, especially since Bristol Uni don’t always give us the insight into feasible art careers besides marketing. Furthermore, it is fundamental to our personal development (and therefore our wellbeing) to listen to others’ life experiences which in turn contributes to our own.

However the best part of Art School was the student organised exhibition we put on at the end of term at The Arts House Café in Stokes Croft. The intimate venue, in a living room-like basement, was the perfect opportunity to mix and mingle with our friends – from both in and outside the course – but most importantly to experience the sense of pride gained from seeing our own art on the wall.

This feeling of pride contributed to my sense of life fulfilment and nourishment of my mental health, especially since it was a low stress event to curate. As a result, this year the Art Society courses will be coming together for a larger scale exhibition in collaboration with Nightline where anybody is welcome to sign up and put their work on the wall too – member or not!

A display from last year's art exhibition in Stokes Croft UOB Art Society / Phoebe Rodway

Now, as president of the Art Society, it is important for me to share the knowledge of the benefits of creative mindfulness and wellbeing, and to reach all the lost creatives at the University of Bristol. It is important for everybody, ‘arty’ or not, to set aside time to be practical and innovative in order to have good mental health.

This is why I want to set up an Open Studio, which will be a drop-in session, without the commitment of an 8 week course, where anybody is welcome to come and have access to materials which are too expensive for the average student to buy themselves, and to create, surrounded by like-minded people.

I want to build a creative community for our university, which was not necessarily present in my first year, in which everybody is welcome.

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