Red Flag Exhibition illustrates hidden stories of domestic abuse
A dynamic new art exhibition aims to increase awareness and reduce the risk of domestic abuse by giving an insight into the stories of vulnerable young people whose lives have been severely affected. On display at the Arts Care Gallery in Belfast, the Red Flag Exhibition contains over 80 artworks created by young people aged 12-18.
The work was developed by groups from the South Eastern, Western and Northern Trust areas and contains powerful imagery depicting the devastating effects violence and emotional abuse encountered at home and in adolescent relationships has had on their mental and physical health.
The project, facilitated by Arts Care, is part of the ARTiculate programme, funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA).
The £600,000 ARTiculate scheme is a landmark initiative which increases opportunities for hard-to-reach groups to engage with the arts. So far 27 projects across Northern Ireland have received funding to develop a range of activities for vulnerable young people, including, drama, music, visual arts and literature projects. Working with professional artists the projects help to raise awareness of mental and emotional wellbeing issues young people face, and gives them a creative voice to articulate their own individual stories.
The Red Flag Exhibition marks the end of the first phase of a three year project from Arts Care, who over the next 18 months hope to develop a toolkit to be distributed to schools across Northern Ireland to educate young people about harmful emotional relationships and how to seek help.
Dr Jenny Elliott, Arts Care CEO/Artistic Director explained: “By encouraging participation in quality arts activities we want to creatively educate, increase awareness and reduce the risk of domestic violence and injury in adolescent emotional relationships that impact negatively on the mental health and well-being of vulnerable young people.
“The Red Flag project gives young people a creative and safe platform where they can express themselves, as well as developing the emotional resilience and competencies that will lead them to make more informed, healthier and safe relationship choices in the future. A lot of hard work has gone into today’s exhibition and we thank all of the young people who have been brave enough to get involved so far.”
The Red Flag Exhibition has been supported and informed by Health and Social Care Services, Public Health Agency, Women’s Aid, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Education Services and Looked After Children and Young People’s Services, who have identified an awareness of increasing levels of domestic violence in adolescents same or opposite sex relationships.
Lorraine Calderwood, ARTiculate Programme Manager, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “Working with professional artists, the young people involved in this project have had an opportunity to explore a range of creative techniques and use that experience to share their stories with other people who have gone through similar things.
“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.”
Amanda O’ Neill Senior Health & Social Wellbeing Improvement Officer with the PHA said: “The Public Health Agency looks at innovative ways to improve people’s health and wellbeing. The Red Flag project is a good example of how the arts can be used to give a voice to young people and encourage help-seeking behaviour. The PHA recognises the positive impact that the arts can play in improving the mental health and wellbeing of our young people.”
The ARTiculate programme was launched in January 2017 with backing from the then Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, MLA. The three-year 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.
Further information is available on the Arts Council website #nationallottery