Art from the heart: ‘This is Us’ exhibition demonstrates the healing power of art

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When life gets you down, pick up a paintbrush! That’s what Amelia (pictured) did along with hundreds of other Sydney residents who took part in Chill Art classes to improve their mental wellbeing last year. 

Now their magnificent artworks form the exhibition ‘This is Us’ which opens at The 107 Gallery in Redfern from 17-19 January. 

The exhibition celebrates more than expressive art; in many cases, this art has literally saved someone from loneliness and isolation, or helped to alleviate the symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

“Just talking with other people is made easier by having an activity or interest to focus on. It takes the pressure and anxiety away from focusing only on the social skills,” says one of our artists. 

The groups were non-judgemental and provided me with a welcome distraction – concentrating on doing creative arts meant I wasn’t thinking about myself for a while, says another.  

The artworks were produced during weekly Chill Art classes in Sydney’s north-west hosted by not-for-profit health organisation Primary & Community Care Services (PCCS). 

PCCS utilises social prescribing approach across a variety of programs all aimed at improving wellbeing. 

GPs can use social prescribing to help patient’s non-medical needs, such as social isolation, by prescribing social activities to increase wellbeing.  

PCCS CEO, Dr J.R. Baker, says, “Social factors are often overlooked when evaluating someone’s health. But our brains are actually wired to crave connections. When our mental health suffers, people often isolate themselves and this just exacerbates the mental health issues. 

“So what we’re doing is creating groups where those social connections can start to form again. Even if someone is focused on the art, just being in a room with other people can start to break the cycle of isolation and improve their wellbeing.” 

Chill Art is just one of the many social prescribing groups PCCS run to build resilience, counter social isolation and encourage a greater sense of wellbeing for those living with ill mental health. 

The groups are free to access through many of PCCS’ programs and resume in February.  

This is Us is open from 11am-5pm, January 17-19 at The 107 Gallery located at 107 Redfern St, Redfern, with the formal launch held on Friday 17 January from midday.