ART groups from across Somerset have contributed to a virtual exhibition for a year like no other.

Local projects have always formed an integral part of the Wells Art Contemporary (WAC) exhibition, as part of its community outreach work, and this year its Community Room is devoted to works of art from three Somerset groups: Imagine, Learn & Create (ILC) near South Petherton; The Rubbish Art Project in Shepton Mallet; and Heads Up in Wells.

“We wanted to celebrate the work of these groups, especially important during these unprecedented times,” explains Deborah Kolombos, the community co-ordinator for WAC.

Statistics show that up to 10 per cent of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime (before the impact of Covid-19), and there is increasing evidence of the mental benefits of an arts-rich life for health and wellbeing,

Yet a recent report by the National Campaign for the Arts revealed that public funding for the arts per head of population fell by 35 per cent since 2008 and local government investment has decreased by 43 per cent.

“This means that community groups are more important than ever. Anything we can do to support them has to be a priority,” adds Kolombos.

“Providing a dedicated gallery space within the exhibition seemed a fitting way to put them in the spotlight.”

Chard & Ilminster News:

JUNGLE FEVER: One of the works from ILC

Heads Up is the only purpose-built centre for community mental health and wellbeing in the Mendip area, providing activity-based workshops for those living with mental health needs, including dementia.

Sally Dempsey, Heads Up business manager, said: “Our sessions provide real therapeutic nurturing.

"It’s a relaxed, safe space for people to express themselves creatively, and it’s wonderful to see the resulting increase in both confidence and self-esteem.”

ILC provides art and design tutoring for groups and individuals with learning differences, in an idyllic courtyard setting in the heart of the countryside.

Jess Hyslop, founder of ILC, commented: “There are so many positives to art. It engages the whole person, enabling them to immerse themselves and escape the difficulties that surround them.

"Our students work hard to achieve outstanding pieces of art to exhibition standard of which they, and my extraordinary team of specialist tutors, can be immensely proud.”

The Rubbish Art Project at The Art Bank brings people and groups together in a creative environment, set in an old bank building in Shepton Mallet.

James Barker explained: “One of our fundamental tenets is that creativity is key for better health and connection.

"By providing an array of workshops and courses our objective is to improve confidence levels, support well-being and foster inclusion in a fun and friendly space. “

In what has been an incredibly challenging year, both Heads Up and ILC provided art boxes full of interesting projects for students to do at home during lockdown when workshops were temporarily on hold - “to keep the creative buzz going,” explains Hyslop.

The Art Bank, meanwhile, developed online courses and workshops, which proved so successful they will continue to operate going forward.

For more about the exhibition, visit the website here.