'Looking To the Light' heralds the first in a series of exhibitions across the UK, part of a two year project entitled New Dialogues supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, where artists from the award-winning charity Outside In have been given access to collections relating to mental health. It has comprised of a programme of nine courses designed to equip artists with skills in research, interpretation and curation. These courses have resulted in four fascinating exhibitions showcasing works from these collections alongside responses created by the participating artists.
'Looking to the Light' will be the first of these exhibitions, running at Glenside Hospital Museum, from 14 May to 1 September. The work on display is united by the subject of light and includes Ally Schooler’s photographic explorations of the light through the windows of the asylum and the padded room, George Harding’s paintings which capture conversations and landscapes on canvas and board and Steve Burden’s emotive portraits inspired by the pictures of Victorian patient portraits. The exhibition also showcases the artists’ personal journeys while on the course.
Glenside Hospital Museum is based in the Grade II listed Victorian asylum church within the grounds of Bristol’s 1861 to 1994 psychiatric hospital, now the University of the West of England’s Health and Social Care Campus on Blackberry Hill. In addition to the story of the psychiatric hospital, Glenside Hospital Museum also contains exhibits on the First World War when the building became Beaufort War Hospital from 1915-1919, treating just under 30,000 wounded soldiers, and giving inspiration to the artist Sir Stanley Spencer who worked there as an orderly, as well as the history of the Stoke Park Colony of Learning Disability hospitals. The museum is full of objects, photographs, drawings and information collected from the former hospitals. The exhibits are compelling and provide an opportunity to examine the care provided in the past for people with mental illness and learning disabilities, and to consider our own health needs.
Outside In is an award-winning charity is a catalyst for change, providing opportunities for artists who face barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstances and isolation. The charity's work covers three main areas - artist development, exhibitions and training, all with the aim of breaking down barriers and creating a fairer art world.