The Holburne Museum, Bath

Louise Campion, 15.06.2015
The Gardener’s Lodge art group
The Gardener’s Lodge art group has been part of the Holburne Museum’s  community engagement programme since 2007. The group offers a safe, supportive space for people with experience of mental health issues and homelessness to develop their creative skills.

Participants are referred by health sector partners and local support services as part of their recovery plan.

Recently we worked with a scientist from Bath University and two local artists to reinterpret the museum’s collection of 18th-century portraits. Taking inspiration from cutting-edge neuroscience imagery and brain scans, the group reinterpreted the paintings from “the inside-out”, creating new 21st-century portraits.  

These neuro-portraits aim to get beneath the skin and raise awareness of the psychological states of the Holburne’s most familiar faces.

The finished pieces were exhibited in the museum before going on show in the annual Bath Fringe Arts Festival, a community event that took place in empty shops in the city centre.

The strengths of the project included:

  • Participants, museum staff and the general public were stimulated to look again at the portrait collection.
  • The exhibition acted as a creative platform to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues.
  • A public celebration of the creativity of individuals who may have previously felt marginalised or isolated.

One of the challenges was to explore scientific research on mental health conditions in a sensitive and supportive way that responded to individual needs.

This project was accomplished on a very small budget (from Holburne’s core funding) and relied on building good relationships with other organisations and the support of volunteers.

Louise Campion is the learning and community engagement officer at the Holburne Museum