Artist Clinton Kirkpatrick reflects on the space we open up at Seacourt

Seacourt is a unique space. Participants are supported in an environment that is more than completing a piece of work, or workshop, and going home at the end of the day.

People are encouraged to find their own voice, develop a practice, and they are encouraged to problem-solve any challenges that they encounter whilst having the support of professional artists and practitioners should they need it.

The outreach and community work were originally offered to local groups and we focused on supporting those with mental health, or physical disability, needs. Everyone who had previously entered into workshops at Seacourt were, in a sense, labelled because of the groups that they attended such as Action Mental Health or Cedar Foundation, which supports various needs in people. These people belonged to these groups as they needed support in various ways.

The space within Seacourt is important because we actively seek to throw out the idea of what labels are and what that means for people. Of course, it is important to acknowledge people’s capabilities, or where they need extra help and support but they are not wholly defined by these.

We believe that participants who are coming into Seacourt should not be bound by their disability but instead are encouraged to find purpose within their individuality and their arts practice. Seacourt has allowed the time for these people to develop personally. What we have witnessed was amazing. The space invites people in, holds them as people and artists, and allows for natural growth, development and understanding of printmaking and art practice. In turn this improves mental health and wellbeing and this has been acknowledged by many of our participants.

People have developed friendships and they all meet every week, once or twice, as a group, to facilitate their work. The majority of the participants are regular attendees and rarely misses sessions. In 2019 we all worked together to create an exhibition of their most recent work where everyone was given the opportunity to display their artworks. Everybody availed of this opportunity, and for the first time ever, worked on a collective brief together. There was pride, sincerity and a sense of community within the exhibition and its participants.

Each month we tried to further teach what it was to be an artist and continue to engage in personal work and I think that this could only have happened in the context of somewhere like Seacourt as it is a professionally run artists’ space. One participant illustrated their own book, and most people have developed distinct styles as artists and the work has started to become strong. An individual sense of identity is important and Seacourt allows for that to be cultivated and to grow. Seacourt offers a warm and inviting atmosphere to work in.