At the height of the first Covid-19 lockdown, Southbank Centre created Art by Post to engage those most isolated by social distancing measures. They particularly wanted to reach older adults living with dementia and other chronic health conditions.
Supported by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, Southbank Centre worked with 17 artists to create 11 creative activity booklets which were sent out in the post.
Each booklet had up to 5 activities designed to spark creativity and imagination, which could be done at home or in a care setting, using everyday objects. Included in the packs were Freepost envelopes, encouraging participants to share their artwork and creative responses with the Southbank Centre.
40,000 booklets were sent out in 2020-21 and the Art by Post community has since grown to 4,500 people, aged 18-103, from Dover to Aberdeen. Many were supported in the project by friends, family members and health care professionals who were also invited to join in.
In addition to the posted booklets, online and telephone sessions brought the Art by Post community together to meet each other and the artists. These sessions offered social interactions between participants across the country, creating a sense of belonging and unity.
Twelve photographers were commissioned to take doorstep photography of 52 participants from across the UK. These featured in over 60 public spaces throughout the UK as well as in outdoor displays on the exhibition tour.
Art by Post set out to addresses the significant digital divide in the UK, which meant that many vulnerable and isolated people would not have been able to access the digital creative initiatives that had been created by many cultural organisations in response to the pandemic.
Evaluation undertaken after the first phase of the project showed that approximately 60% of those taking part were living alone and 88% were living with one more long-term health condition.
Partnerships were essential to the project’s success. These included the 13 delivery and 156 referral partners, which ranged from care homes, prisons, housing associations and community organisations.
NASP’s support enabled Southbank Centre to bring together an exhibition of some of the Art by Post participants’ artworks which opened at Southbank Centre in September 2021 and then went on to tour to 5 other venues across the country.
In addition, NASP and Southbank Centre brought Art by Post’s powerful message about the positive role of creativity in people’s lives, their health and wellbeing to billboards and bus stops across the UK.
The project was featured as a story on Google Arts and Culture. Check it out to see more of the artwork.