Art in Nature, Moray Art Centre

Who is Moray Art Centre?

Moray Art Centre (MAC) is a registered charity offering a community hub for everyone with a focus on making art accessible to all. MAC runs our many in-person classes, workshops and Summer School while exhibiting work in the beautiful gallery spaces. We are a vibrant and motivating organisation that allows people to meet, discuss and generate a community of creativity. While based in Findhorn, we champion local artists and celebrate the rich culture throughout Moray and the North of Scotland. Our aim is to provide the tools of creativity so that anyone can benefit from their undoubted health and community benefits.

Our Art in Nature Workshop Pilot

In September 2021 Moray Art Centre (MAC) led a trial Art in Nature workshop designed in partnership with the local fellow charity Wild Things, Moray Wellbeing Hub and the artist Iona Leishman to teach participants about the local environment while using creativity to manage and improve their mental health.

Wild Things set the scene in the environment surrounding MAC at Findhorn, educating participants about the local habitats and wildlife. Back in the garden at MAC, artist Iona Leishman then guided them to making a joint mural using found materials and expressing their experiences with their new art skills. Moray Wellbeing Hub connected MAC to those with mental health issues who expressed an interest in the workshop, although this was not the only pathway to the programme. MAC provided a facilitator, promotion, arts materials, participant support (before, during and after the workshop) and a teaching space.

people standing on a grassy hill listening to a speaker

Many peer-reviewed studies show how expressing creativity and spending time in nature can improve mental health, with the NHS providing prescriptions for people to partake in these activities (Arts Council 2016, Thomson et al 2020). Even prior to the impacts of the pandemic, awareness of the importance of robust mental health was growing. Now, post-lockdown, some people need help acclimatising to interacting with others and overcoming the fear of the past two years.

The Art in Nature workshop was designed with the recovery route of the CHIME framework in mind. The importance of connection is present when building relationships and cooperation with others in the workshop, especially when producing a joint art piece. The sense of empowerment participants gain when expressing their Identity by forging their creative strengths is also seen in the workshop.

large art work in progress laid out across some tables with 2 people working adding to the painting

The survey results from the trial workshop were overwhelmingly positive in MAC’s provision of the workshop and the overall impacts on participants from the local community. 60% of those at the workshop stated that the connection with other people was what they appreciated most about the experience, demonstrating the need to provide services to help people interact with others. Everyone who took part in the trial felt buoyed by the experience with one participant remarking, “Thank you so much for letting my inner arty self and child out for a play.”

MAC is now applying for grants with the hope of offering at least 3 programmes of Art in Nature workshop – one for children, one for a specific group (e.g. care homes, Men’s Shed, etc.) and one for the general public. An award from Moray Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund will enable MAC, Moray Wellbeing Hub and Wild Things to launch at least one series of workshops this year and help to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community.

If you are interested in hearing more or wish to just drop us a line about any of our provisions and projects please email and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Lucy Summers (MAC Board member)

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