City-Centre graffiti project helps ARTiculate positive mental health message
A graffiti project is just one element in a series of arts-led initiatives helping to create a dialogue around positive mental health and wellbeing at Extern, a city-centre charity which offers help and support to marginalised young people.
The organisation is one of 15 to have received funding in January as part of ARTiculate, a new three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people.
Working with young people aged 11-25 Extern are now offering opportunities to take part in a range of arts based projects digital media, mixed media workshops, and the creation of artworks to celebrate life, thanks to funding received through the ARTiculate programme. The One-Stop-Shop sessions take place within Extern’s youth space on Queens Street in Belfast City Centre. The drop-in centre offers a safe recreational place for young people to come together and experience the arts, with specialist onsite counselling staff and resources available to further support the emotional health and wellbeing needs of the young people involved.
Youth worker Christopher Deconink is coordinating the project: “This project came about as a direct result of feedback from focus groups about what facilities and resources the young people would like to see in their new youth space. The young people have been working with artists on a range of projects, part of which has involved creating artworks to display within this building to really make it their own. Our team are actively participating in projects alongside the young people, encouraging trust, offering support, and giving them the opportunity to just have fun.”
Lorraine Calderwood, ARTiculate Programme Manager, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The positive links between engagement in the arts and wellbeing are firmly established. Working together with the Public Health Agency, we are supporting a diverse range of projects that open up opportunities for young people to engage in the arts and the many benefits that brings, such as promoting self-expression, and developing self-confidence and self-motivation.
“Extern’s One Stop Shop is a fantastic example of a project that is helping young people to come together and learn new creative and communicative skills to articulate their story.”
Séamus Mullen, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (Belfast and South Eastern) with PHA, said: “This programme is a great example of how arts can be used in an innovative way to give a voice to young people and encourage help-seeking behaviour. The PHA recognise the positive impact that the arts can play in improving the mental health and wellbeing of our young people. The young people involved benefit in a number of ways such as making new friends, learning new skills, gaining confidence in their abilities. They also learn about the mental health support that is available.”
The first 15 organisations to be awarded funding through the ARTiculate programme were announced in January. The programme will run over three years and it is anticipated that approximately 35 projects will benefit from funding. The programme is delivered by artists and arts organisations working in partnership with youth and community organisations linked to the PHA across a range of health improvement themes.