Create artist Rachel McGivern on supporting creativity and wellbeing in community settings

Rachel McGivern

To mark Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2021, we spoke to our visual artist, Rachel McGivern, about her experience of delivering creative projects in community settings, particularly our creative:tandem project with patients at Snowsfields, an adolescent mental health unit in South London. 

“I’ve always really enjoyed art. Even at school, it was the subject where I could just have a bit more freedom and explore creativity. When I was at university studying illustration, I realised I really enjoyed working with people and exploring creative activities. I feel like I get quite a lot from facilitating workshops, such as the conversations, meeting new people and seeing different points of view.

“My work falls within the umbrella of visual arts. I don’t work in one art form, I kind of spread out. That might be printmaking, weaving or sculpture. I work very much with groups, thinking about how we can share these skills, have an engaging experience with different participants and support their wellbeing. I took part in Create’s Nurturing Talent programme a couple of years ago. That was a really great experience. It taught me how to work with different community groups and helped me gain an understanding of the needs of each group and to bring that into my participatory practice.

Rachel McGivern talks about delivering arts projects in community settings

Supporting creativity online via Create Live!

“I’ve enjoyed delivering online workshops with Create during the pandemic via Create Live!. It’s a whole new way of working. I’ve had to readapt some of the activities and think about how they can translate online. Since I’m quite materials driven, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of thinking about using everyday things and making things in new ways using items from the recycling bin. Adapting my approach to bring that to different groups has been a really positive experience.

“I think creativity is really valuable to everyone. It gives us the time and space to explore an idea without the pressure of it being anything other than an idea and enjoy just the free flow of it.”

Rachel McGivern

“The creative:tandem project at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit was really interesting. Although we were working online, it almost felt like we were in a studio setup. Everyone was having a little bit of conversation, but very much getting on with their own personal project and exploration of the same activity, and being able to take it in any direction that they wanted to, facilitated by the staff on site. You could use the same equipment and the same materials in totally different ways. For the weaving session, for example, one of the participants preferred wrapping instead of weaving; another really liked the actual process of weaving as more of a structured thing. They created this massive loom and started weaving on that. We also had a session where they decorated their own bags with some fabric sprays and stencils, based on this idea of putting your own stamp on an item.

Rachel McGivern on our ITV Creates project

“The technology made it a bit difficult for me to have a direct conversation with the participants, but it felt like we were communicating through making. One of the young people was leaving the centre the day the bag decorating session took place so they were really happy to be able to take something away. Another described the sessions as ‘beautifully calm’, which was very nice.

“I think creativity is really valuable to everyone. It gives us the time and space to explore an idea without the pressure of it being anything other than an idea and enjoy just the free flow of it. I think some of the activities I do have an outcome, because it’s really nice to have that as a memory; but mostly, I’m really interested in the process, and the experience of making something. That’s why I love workshops. It’s more about the time and space to experiment and do something, try something new, challenge yourself and feel that pride of learning something new. It brings so much happiness.”

Rachel McGivern talks about her experience of working with Create

Read more about creative:tandem

Nurturing Talent

Find out more about our programme for emerging artists like Rachel

artwork by young people living with mental illness

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